As The Rebel-Held Syria Fears The Virus, There Is Only One Machine To Test Covid-19

As The Rebel-Held Syria Fears The Virus, There Is Only One Machine To Test Covid-19

A few days ago, just 120 tests were carried out on only 300 samples. A single device at the medical center of Mohamad Shahim Makki in Idlib province, part of Syria's last rebel stronghold, is the only warning that will sound when the coronavirus hits a nation of millions of the most needy people in the world. 

Makki's Epidemiological Surveillance Laboratory has the only laboratory designed to run a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test to detect the virus in areas outside of Syrian government influence. 

While all have so far been optimistic, doctors and relief agencies are afraid that crowded camps for displaced people, and war-ravaged medical facilities, will make any contagion fast and deadly. Tests have started to get into the laboratory faster, with 5,000 collected in the last two days, although it is not yet clear how many of them can be handled or how quickly. 

The device "is not enough to satisfy all of these people, so the system is put under pressure. And since it's the only one, samples are picked using strict criteria, "Makki said. "If corona spreads northwest it's going to be a disaster. The number of deaths will be very high and diseases will be massive, in the hundreds of thousands, "told Reuters last month Ahmad al-Dbis of the U.S .- based medical charity UOSSM, which works in opposition territory. 

Plans for equipping other centers with PCR test devices were slowed down by their high cost and the training needed to operate them. 

"Because of the war and because of the systematic bombing of hospitals and health centers in the liberated areas we have significant gaps in the health sector," Makki said.

The last region of the country currently occupied by rebels seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad is northwest Syria. It is home to more than 3 million people, most of whom left other parts of Syria in a nine-year-old civil war.

Photo: Reuters