Syrian President Bashar Assad and his wife have tested positive for coronavirus although their symptoms are mild, his office said Monday.
In a statement, the Syrian presidency said the couple underwent tests as they felt symptoms of COVID-19. It added that Assad, 55, and his wife Asma, who is 10 years younger and who in 2019 announced she recovered from breast cancer, will continue to work from their residence although in isolation, for at least two to three weeks.
Both are in good health and in stable condition, the report said.
Syria, which next week will mark 10 years of civil war, has recorded nearly 16,000 cases of the coronavirus and 1,063 deaths at least in government-controlled areas. But the real figure is likely to be much higher due to a shortage of PCR tests, particularly in the north of the country where the government has no control.
The pandemic, which has stretched the resources of even the most developed countries, has posed a huge problem for Syria’s medical system, in shambles after years of war.
Syria launched a vaccination campaign last week, but authorities have not released details of the campaign or allowed journalists to witness inoculations. The Health Ministry has indicated that the vaccines came from a friendly country, which it declined to name.
The announcement comes just days after reports that Israel paid Russia $1.2 million to deliver vaccines to Syria. In return, Syria reportedly released an Israeli woman who was being held in Damascus. The terms of the alleged deal, reportedly brokered by Moscow, remained shrouded in the strictest secrecy. Syria denies that there is any agreement in place and Russia has refused to comment.
The fact that Israel is financing Syria’s vaccination campaign would be embarrassing for the Assad government, which considers Israel its archenemy.