Bashar Al-Assad’s office announced on Monday that Assad and his wife Asma tested positive for COVID-19, after conducting PCR tests due to the couple having slight signs of infection. Assad, who is aged 55, and his wife, who is 10 years younger than him, will be isolated for the next three weeks. Assad’s office announced that both are in good and stable condition.
In Syria, which will mark a decade of war next week, COVID-19 cases rose to 16,000 in Assad controlled parts of the country. The death tally is said to be 1,063. Nonetheless, the numbers are expected to be much greater with limited amounts of PCR tests being done, predominantly in areas of northern Syria outside Assad’s control.
The pandemic, which has even harshly affected advanced countries, has been a key challenge for Syria’s health care sector, which is now dwindling by years of conflict. Last week, Syria started a vaccination campaign amid the rising numbers of infection cases, however, no details have been announced about the procedure, nor have indigenous journalists been premised to observe the rollout. The Syrian health minister said the government procured the vaccines from a friendly country, which he declined to name.
The declaration came days after transnational and Israeli media reports disclosed that Israel funded Russia $1.2 million to provide the Assad government with COVID-19 vaccines. It was supposedly part of a deal that held the release of an Israeli woman detained in Damascus. The terms of the stealthy trade-off bartered by Moscow remained dark. The Assad government contradicted it happened and Russia failed to comment on the matter. Israeli sponsoring of Syria’s vaccination struggles would be a mortification for Assad’s government, which considers Israel its main regional enemy.