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W.H.O. Failed to Tell Syrian Kurds of Their First Coronavirus Death

Syria’s Kurdish northeast had its first Covid-19 death, The case was news to the Kurds.

The Kurdish-led administration that governs northeastern Syria announced on Friday the first death in that region from Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. As it turns out, the World Health Organization knew about the case for more than 11 days before informing the local authorities, a W.H.O. official said.

The W.H.O. official and the Kurdish administration, which oversees about one-third of Syria’s territory along the Turkish and Iraqi borders, said a 53-year-old man was admitted to a hospital on March 27. Doctors ran a test for the coronavirus and sent it to the Syrian capital, Damascus, for analysis.

The man died on April 2, the same day that his test came back positive. The authorities in Damascus, which has a hostile relationship with the Kurds, did not pass along that information.

The W.H.O. official, Rick Brennan, the regional emergency director for the eastern Mediterranean, said in an interview that the Syrian authorities informed the organization of the case on April 5, but because of “internal procedural problems and miscommunication,” it did not get word to the Kurds about it until Thursday — 11 days later.

The case illustrates how the political divisions left by Syria’s long civil war could hinder a response if a major outbreak occurs. The government of President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus controls most of the country, but has hostile relations with both the Kurdish-led administration that governs the northeast and the leaders of a rebel-held enclave in Idlib Province in the northwest.

Syria has reported only 38 cases of coronavirus and two deaths, but aid groups have warned that the virus could do great damage. Millions of Syrians have been displaced and impoverished through nine years of war, and much of the country’s health infrastructure has been badly damaged.

In a statement Friday, the Kurdish-led administration said it would hold the W.H.O. responsible if the virus spread in its area.

Mr. Brennan said that the man who died had no travel history and no known contact with other infected people — indicating that there are almost certainly other, undiagnosed cases in the area.

Source: The New York Times

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