Syria President Bashar Assad and wife catch COVID-19 as country battles pandemic amid a civil war

BY GEORGE BAGHDADI*

Damascus — Syrian President Bashar Assad and his wife Asma both have tested positive for the coronavirus, but a presidential spokesman said Monday that the couple remained in good health. They’ve caught the disease as Syria is poised to mark a decade of civil war, which has seen Assad castigated by the U.S. and many other Western nations and made it difficult to stave off a public health crisis.

“After experiencing mild symptoms that resemble COVID-19, President al-Assad and First Lady Asma al-Assad took a PCR test, and the result showed that they are infected with the virus,” the spokesman said in a statement carried by state-run media outlets. “They are in good health and their condition is stable.”

The spokesman said the president and his wife would continue working during their “home quarantine period” of two to three weeks.

“President al-Assad and Mrs. Asma wish the safety and well-being of all Syrians and all peoples of the world from this virus, and they call on all Syrians to continue to follow precautions and preventive measures as much as possible,” the spokesman said.

Syrian officials have confirmed only about 16,000 COVID-19 infections since the pandemic began a year ago, and there have been only about 1,000 deaths confirmed from the disease. There were long no reliable figures, however, for the small portion of the country still held by rebel groups, or the significant swath of northeast Syria controlled by Kurdish forces. Those regions, combined, have since reported about 700 fatalities.

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