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Syrian president Assad tests positive for coronavirus

Syrian president Assad tests positive for coronavirus

Syrian President Bashar Assad and his wife Asma al-Assad on Monday announced that they have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The Associated Press reports that Assad’s office said in a statement that the two were experiencing mild symptoms so far with their diagnosis confirmed through a PCR test. The couple will work from home as they isolate for two to three weeks.

Assad's office added that both were in “good health and in stable condition.”

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The AP notes that the pandemic has severely impacted Syria’s health care system which was already depleted by the ongoing civil war in the nation which will mark its 10th year next week.

Syria began its vaccine rollout last week, the outlet notes, though information regarding the distribution has been limited and journalists have not been permitted to see the rollout. Syria's health minister said the vaccines were procured by a friendly country that he did not name.

However, Israeli media reported that Israel paid Russia $1.2 million to provide the Syrian government with vaccines. This was reportedly part of a deal to release an Israeli woman being held in Damascus, the AP reports. Damascus has denied that such a deal occurred.

The AP notes that if such an exchange were to be confirmed, it would be an embarrassment to Assad's administration, which considers Israel a major regional enemy.

According to data from the World Health Organization, Syria has confirmed nearly 16,000 coronavirus cases and just over 1,000 deaths. However, the AP notes that the number is likely much higher as PCR testing has been limited especially in northern areas outside of the government's control.