Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad and his wife, Asma, have tested positive for COVID-19 after showing minor symptoms, according to a statement by the presidential office.
The couple were in good health and would continue to work while in isolation at home for a period of two to three weeks, it said on Monday.
War-torn Syria has seen a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections since mid-February but lockdown options remain limited due to the country’s dire economic situation, a member of the country’s coronavirus advisory committee said last week.
Al-Assad’s government started administering COVID-19 vaccinations to front-line healthcare workers on March 1.
Syria has officially recorded a total of 15,981 cases and 1,063 deaths since the start of the pandemic. However, actual numbers are believed to be much higher owing to the government’s limited testing capability.
With a collapsed healthcare system, battered economy and a severe lack of doctors and nurses due to medical providers fleeing Syria’s brutal war, authorities face an uphill battle to control the spread of COVID-19.
The government imposed a nationwide curfew when the pandemic first hit last year but restaurants, shops and schools reopened as the lockdown was gradually eased starting from May.
Mask wearing is required in government offices and on crowded public transport.
Syria’s devastating conflict began in 2011 as a mass uprising against al-Assad’s rule but quickly morphed into a full-fledged war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, displaced millions and drawn in foreign powers.
There have been no significant health issues recently reported about al-Assad.
In August, the 55-year-old trained ophthalmologist halted a speech in Parliament, telling legislators he needed to “sit down for a minute” after suffering a drop in blood pressure.
In 2018, Asma al-Assad, 45, underwent treatment for breast cancer, which the presidency said had been detected early. A year later, she said she recovered fully.