A woman and her sons walk on a street in Damascus, Syria amid the Coronavirus pandemic, April 18, 2020

Facing a surge of the Coronavirus pandemic, the Assad regime is closing primary schools indefinitely.

Education Minister Darem Tabbaa said on Saturday that high schools will remain open, but private and public universities will suspend classes for two weeks starting Monday.

The regime has hidden the extent of the virus since the start of the pandemic last spring. The Health Ministry has acknowledged less than 20,000 cases and only 1,299 deaths. Medics, activists, and residents say the toll is far higher.

But hospitals in Damascus ran out of intensive care beds last months, with patients transferred to other provinces. Regime officials are strenuously denying a shortage of oxygen cylinders, forcing the ill to purchase them at inflated prices and take them home.

Health Ministry official Hatoun Tawashi admitted last week that cases have risen sharply, with the absence of many students and teachers.

Prime Minister Hussein Arnous tried to assure reporters on Saturday that the regime will receive vaccines “within days” from China, Russia and the World Health Organization.

The regime had declared in mid-March that it had begun distribution of vaccines, with the first inoculations of front-line health workers in several main hospitals.

The WHO has reportedly almost 21,000 cases in the opposition-held northwest, and about 9,000 in the Kurdish-controlled northeast.