UPDATE, 1315 GMT:
Raed Saleh, the head of the White Helmets civil defense, sends a video message from self-isolation.
If we protect ourselves today, we will come out of this stronger and overcome this health crisis to become stronger. We will build the Syria that this great people deserves.
Within the available resources, our #WhiteHelmets teams continue the preventive disinfection campaign against the #CoronaVirus in addition to #StayAtHome campaign, that aims to encourage civilian to stay home and follow preventive measures against the #virus. pic.twitter.com/HzuQ0sKU3A
— The White Helmets (@SyriaCivilDef) March 23, 2020
The Assad regime has admitted the first case of Coronavirus in its areas of Syria.
Health Minister Nizar al-Yazigi (pictured) said a 20-year-old woman will be quarantined for 14 days and given medical checks. He said she “came from an area [abroad] where there are infections”.
The regime added to its control measures on Sunday with a ban on public transport and an amnesty of some prisoners. Bakeries have been shut, with deliveries of bread made to homes, and printing of newspapers has been halted.
The regime’s army said it had issued commands to limit gatherings: “We have taken a number of steps … to protect our sons in their residences in military units and formations, and [to] order the use of gloves and masks.”
On March 13, Ministers acknowledged a possible outbreak by approving the closing schools, universities, and institutes. All cultural, sporting, and scientific events with crowds were suspended. Work hours in the public sector were being reduced 40%, and businesses were ordered to operate with the minimum of staff for 15 days.
A day later, Bashar al-Assad called off elections to the National Assembly. Army conscription was subsequently suspended.
Analysts have questioned the regime’s loud denials of Coronavirus cases, noting the shattered state of Syrian services after a nine-year conflict and the influx of thousands of foreign militiamen — including from Iran, one of the epicenters of the outbreak — propping up regime forces.
The Islamic Republic is still bringing personnel and supplies into Syria through Mahan Air’s regular flgiths from Tehran to Damascus.
Residents have also questioned the regime line: “The government lives in denial; it’s bullshit.”
People in the opposition-held northwest are at great risk. More than half of medical facilities have been damaged, and many civilians — among more than one million displaced by a Russian-regime offensive since last April — live in overcrowded camps with poor sanitation and little or no water supply.
The Kurdish area in northeast Syria has closed crossings with regime-held territory.