Northeast Syria in the times of Corona: Who says what?

In North-East Syria, protective measures against the corona virus are being extended. People do not know how to make a living during a curfew. The health committee is announcing support.

The measures against the corona threat, which have been intensified step by step in northern and eastern Syria, have been tightened with the curfew imposed by the autonomous administration. No infection with the novel corona virus has yet been detected in the region.

The Autonomous Administration had initially closed the borders, schools and universities and banned mass events. Crisis committees were set up in all regions and the disinfection of public spaces began. Because the virus is spreading further and further in neighbouring countries, a curfew, valid from 23 March, has been imposed.

We have asked people in Qamishlo what personal protective measures they are taking, what difficulties will be caused by the curfew and what this means financially for them. Ciwan Mistefa, the co-chairman of the Health Committee of the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, told us about the preparations that have been made.

Markets and shops quiet

Trader Kamil Lolo reports that people are shopping less. It has become noticeably quieter at the markets and in the shopping streets. Personally, he tries to protect himself against infection by means of the proposals made by the autonomous administration. "There is fear among the population," he says. This is also evident at the market.

What are we supposed to live on during curfew?

Ekrem Mistefa says that a large part of the population is poor and does not know how to make a living during the curfew: "At most ten percent of the population is doing well economically. All the others are dependent on their daily work for their livelihood. What are we supposed to live on when such a ban comes?"

It is more difficult for the poor

"Protective measures are difficult, and if you are poor, it is even more difficult," says Azad Mihemed Mirad and adds: "If there is nothing to eat at home and the children need bread, I have to go to work to earn a living. That has to be considered too."

Communes must become active

Ebdulxenî Taha is co-chairman of a commune. He says that the region organizes itself through the communes: "The communes must be activated and observe who is economically badly off. To do this, the autonomous administration must work in a coordinated way with the communes, the local councils and the cantonal councils."

Precautions for hairdressers

Hairdresser Bawer Ehmed tells that he has taken protective measures against the coronavirus. He now uses gloves and face mask and scissors and other equipment are regularly disinfected.

Public transport is suspended

The autonomous administration has stopped the public transport in Qamishlo. Most trips in the city are made by taxi. The taxi drivers say that their business is better now, but they also take protective measures. Mihemed Xelîl says that the taxis are cleaned daily. The passengers are informed about the rules to be followed. His colleague Bavê Mîtan points to a brochure of the health committee, which he has hung up in his taxi.

Remezan Eshed, another taxi driver, explains that he pays attention to the warnings broadcast on television: "Of course there is fear, but not exaggerated. We're taking precautions and we'll see what happens."

Health Committee: No corona case detected in northeast Syria

The co-chair of the Health Committee of the Autonomous Administration, Ciwan Mistefa, believes that no country in the world is sufficiently prepared for the pandemic. In his opinion, the protective measures to be taken have two levels: "The first level concerns the precautions that all citizens must take. The second level is the measures to be taken by the autonomous administration and the competent institutions."

According to the health committee, no infection has yet been detected in northeast Syria. Ciwan Mistefa says that preparations in the health sector for possible corona cases are ongoing.

Cooperation with Doctors without Borders

There is no exchange on the subject with the government in Damascus. Ciwan Mistefa says that the Syrian Ministry of Health does not act for cooperation. The World Health Organization is also showing no such efforts because the region has no official status.

Cooperation only takes place with the organization "Médecins sans Frontières" (Doctors Without Borders). "We work together in a coordinated manner. There are still doctors from them here and we are fighting for the health of the population like in a great mobilization."

Advice from the Health Committee

Ciwan Mistefa, who is himself a medical doctor, points out that the population itself can make the biggest contribution to the fight against the pandemic: "Above all, everyone must pay attention to their own cleanliness, as well as to the cleanliness of their own surroundings, their homes and their everyday objects. The established rules must be observed. Against this virus, everyone is both a fighter and a doctor."

Support during curfew

Commenting on the difficulties with the upcoming curfew, the co-chair of the health committee says: "This decision does not tell people to stay at home to avoid dying from the virus and it does not matter if they die from other things. The decision has been discussed at length in terms of its implications and the discussion continues. We will do all we can to help the people and provide assistance. How this will be done will be made public in the coming days."