UN reports first COVID-19 cases inside Syrian refugee camps in Jordan

New Delhi (NVI): Two coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the Azraq camp for Syrian refugees in Jordan, which is home to more than 40,000 people who have fled their country’s civil war, the UN refugee agency said.

They are the first infections to be detected among Syrians living in refugee camps in Jordan.

The UNHCR said the two patients were transferred to quarantine facilities after testing positive, and their neighbours have been isolated as more testing is carried out.

UNHCR spokesman Mohammad Hawari said the two patients were transferred to an isolation centre on the Dead Sea. Those who were living with them, as well as their neighbours, were moved to an “isolation zone” inside the camp, and everyone who had contact with them is being tested.

Hawari added the camp hospital has 14 beds designated for patients with COVID-19. But officials are concerned the virus could easily spread among the crowded population.

“It is a reminder that everyone has been affected by this epidemic, and solutions must be addressed through international solidarity and cooperation,” UNHCR said in a statement.

Azraq is home to about 40,000 Syrian refugees, while the larger Zaatari camp in Jordan houses around 80,000.

Jordan hosts a total of more than 650,000 Syrian refugees, most of whom live outside of camps. At least four Syrian refugees living outside the camps in Jordan have tested positive, with three of them recovering.

Experts and aid agencies have warned of potentially catastrophic outbreaks in the world’s refugee camps, where sanitation is often poor and social distancing is nearly impossible.

More than 70 million people worldwide have fled their homes because of war and unrest, and up to 10 million live in refugee camps and informal settlements, according to media reports.