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Syria: Government official says Damascus Covid-19 beds full

Tawfiq Hassab said a number of virus patients who needed intensive care had been transferred to other provinces
Syrian children in front of a Covid-19 mural awareness campaign drawing calling on people to take care (AFP)

Intensive care beds for coronavirus patients in Damascus were full on Thursday, a Syrian health ministry official said, in the first such announcement since the start of the pandemic.

"The occupancy rate of intensive care beds dedicated for coronavirus patients in public hospitals... in Damascus has reached 100 percent," state news agency Sana quoted Tawfiq Hassab as saying.

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"A certain number of Covid-19 patients who needed intensive care have been transferred to other provinces," he said, noting a large increase in local transmissions.

Syria has recorded 16,776 cases of Covid-19, including 1,120 deaths in government-held areas.

However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) believes the number of cases may be much higher in view of limited testing.

President Bashar al-Assad and his wife caught mild cases of Covid-19 earlier this month, but as of Wednesday the Syrian presidency said they were recovering.

Covax allocation

Government-held areas in Syria are to receive coronavirus vaccines under the Covax global initiative to ensure jabs reach low-income countries, AFP reported.

"The first allocation of vaccines is anticipated by the end of the first quarter of 2021, or within the next quarter at the latest," a WHO report said on Thursday.

Last month it was reported that Israel had agreed to purchase an unknown number of Russia's Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine doses for use in Syria in exchange for the release of an Israeli woman who had crossed the border into Syria.

According to a report in the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat, Israel was funding the purchase of Sputnik V doses for Damascus as part of the prisoner exchange deal with the Syrian government. 

The Ynet news site said that Israel had purchased more than $1m worth of doses of the vaccine.