Coronavirus: UN calls for total ceasefire in Syria

by Rushda Fathima Khan

Source: Reuters

The United Nations has called for an immediate nationwide ceasefire across the war-battered country to promote an “all-out-effort” to resist the coronavirus pandemic.

On humanitarian grounds, the UN special envoy for Syria, Geir Pedersen, also requested large-scale releases of detainees and abductees in Syria and appealed for medical workers to access detention facilities to help secure sufficient medical care to inmates.

“Syrians are acutely vulnerable to COVID-19. Healthcare facilities have been destroyed or are degraded. There is a shortage of key medical equipment and health professionals,” said Pedersen, referring to the disease caused by the virus.

“To confront this danger, the long-suffering Syrian people desperately need a sustained period of calm throughout the country respected by all parties,” he added.

The spread of coronavirus in Syria brings the possibility of a fatal outbreak to a population wrecked by nine years of war, with demolished hospitals and tightly-packed camps that can potentially accelerate infection, according to doctors and aid workers.

A ban on transport between several provinces and cities have taken effect since Monday after President Bashar al-Assad announced Syria’s first case of the virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared that it was delivering testing kits to the northwestern Idlib region, the last rebel stronghold in the country that has been the zone of Russian-backed Syrian government offensive for three months.

About three million Syrians live in the province, one million of whom are internally displaced.

The International Rescue Committee has cautioned that an outbreak of coronavirus in northern Syria could be one of the worst the world has seen.

Turkey and Russia, who support opposing sides in the discord, agreed on a ceasefire in Idlib, on March 5, meant to pause the Syrian government offensive.

On Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a global ceasefire in all corners of the world.

“The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war. It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives,” he said.

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