Syrians shop for clothes at a flea market in Damascus May 17, 2020 (AFP)
The Assad regime has announced a surge in Coronavirus cases in Syria, even as it lifts restrictions to limit the outbreak.
The Health Ministry reported 20 new cases on Monday, raising the total to 106. It has acknowledged four deaths.
The Ministry said all of the cases were of Syrians coming from abroad: 15 from Kuwait, 3 from Sudan, 1 from Russia, and 1 from Kuwait.
Medical staff, activists, diplomats, and residents all believe the regime is hiding the actual number of cases and the spread of the virus in the country.
But the regime said yesterday that it will lift an overnight curfew from Tuesday, with shops allowed to open between 8 am and 7 pm. Travel between provinces is again permitted.
Public gathers such as weddings and funerals are still not permitted. Cafes and restaurants, parks, gyms, swimming pools, cultural centers, and theaters remain closed pending a review over the next week.
The Cabinet pointed to the need to prop up the economy, badly damaged by nine years of conflict and further crippled by corruption and regime in-fighting.
Prices of essentials are soaring, including doubling for food in six months. The estimated number of “food insecure” Syrians is now 9.3 million, more than half of the 17 million population.
Regime-held areas have suffered for years from inflation and shortages of fuel and cooking gas. Electricity blackouts are common. About 80% of Syrians live in poverty, with a minimum wage equal to about $26 per month.
Earlier this month Assad replaced the Trade Minister in a show of confronting the situation.