Syria reports first coronavirus death as fears grow that virus could spread

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Syria's health ministry said on Sunday that a woman who died after being rushed to hospital for emergency treatment was found to have been infected by coronavirus in the country's first officially reported death from the disease.

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Syria also said its confirmed cases rose to nine from an earlier five cases, but medics and witnesses say there are many more. Officials deny a cover-up but have imposed a lockdown and draconian measures including a nationwide night curfew to stem the pandemic.

The moves to shut businesses, schools, universities, mosques and most government offices, as well as stop public transport, have spread fear among war-weary residents.

Several cities saw panic buying, with residents saying they saw food shortages and a surge in demand that pushed up prices ahead of the start of the curfew.

The United Nations says the country is at high risk of a major outbreak because of a fragile health system devastated by a nine-year war and lack of sufficient equipment to detect the virus, alongside large numbers of vulnerable people.

The World Health Organisation has warned that the country has a limited capacity to deal with a rapid spread of the virus.

On Sunday, the army announced an end to a call-up of army reserves. It has already ended conscription in what military defectors said was an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus among the rank and file.

The government also banned movement of people between governates. Security forces manned checkpoints around provincial cities and only allowed army vehicles and essential services to pass, witnesses said.

Opposition figures and independent politicians point to Damascus' strong ties with Iran, the worst affected country in the region, as a source of possible contagion.

They say the virus is also being transmitted by members of Iranian-backed militias who are fighting alongside the Syrian army, as well as Shi'ite pilgrims who visit shrines in Syria.

Western intelligence sources say Iran's proxy ShRead More – Source

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