Face Masks Cost 500 Syrian Pounds and Alcohol-made Handrub is Mixed with Water… Who Will Save Civilians in Idlib?
The mask price in Idlib has increased more than three times, sterilization items are mixed with water by merchants who want to increase their profits, and the sewing factories are working on manufacturing more than five thousand masks daily.
This is the case in Idlib. Fear and anxiety dominates amid the outbreak of the Corona pandemic in the world, although no cases have been officially recorded in the province. Concern is aggravated by the rising prices of prevention items such as “masks and sterilizers”, in addition to cheating in the manufacturing and selling of some materials.
Meanwhile, organizations, governmental institutions and volunteer groups are taking measures and organizing campaigns to ensure that the virus does not spread in the governorate. This coincides with the start of manufacturing of masks locally in workshops in Idlib.
Is the price increase justified?
The state of anxiety urged civilians in Idlib to purchase medical supplies in an unprecedented manner, which led to significantly soaring prices.
Mustafa al-Badran, a citizen from Idlib, told Rozana: “The high prices of the primary protective materials against the Coronavirus started in Idlib governorate before the great demand for these materials. As soon as talks about the necessity of wearing masks, gloves and sterilizing hands started in Idlib Streets, prices have increased three times as much as they used to be.”
However, some materials prices increased more than that, according to al-Badran: “The face mask increased from 50 to 500 SYP, the medical glove from 35 to 200 SYP, and the 150-ml of alcohol-made handrub increased from 100 to 500 SYP.”
Al-Badran criticized the monitoring role of the Salvation Government, claiming that the increase in prices was probably caused by monopolists who aim to profit from excessive demand.
Regarding the fraud in the manufacture of materials, al-Badran explains that “it was evident that traders cheated, especially in sterilized materials, which are supposed to contain a 15% proportion of alcohol, but now contain only 7% as water is added to the product, turning it useless.”
Nonetheless, with the increase in demand for masks and the increase in their prices, especially when border crossings were recently closed, owners of sewing workshops started to produce masks in Idlib, hoping to reduce their price to the citizens.
Abu Mohammad, the owner of the mask-manufacturing workshop in Idlib, told Rozana: "The sewing workshop works continuously and intensively to prepare medical masks in order to distribute them to the provinces of Idlib and Aleppo while the surplus is exported to Turkey. More than 40 workers work in the workshop, and during the working hours more than five thousand medical masks are manufactured per day.”
Abu Muhammad believes that these mask-manufacturing workshops not only provide less expensive masks, but also provide new job opportunities for workers.
Actions and campaigns
Governmental institutions, voluntary organizations and groups have started more activity to face the spread of the Coronavirus. Since, the Salvation Government announced important measures, most important of which are disinfecting the medical centers on a daily basis, placing two tents in front of the medical facility, one for sorting and the second to follow up on suspected cases of Coronavirus, in addition to placing tents at the border crossings to monitor suspected cases.
Likewise, the Salvation Government announced its intention to open 3 quarantine centers in the city of Salqeen in the northwestern countryside of Idlib and the city of Darat Izza, west of Aleppo Governorate, in addition to the city of al-Bab in the eastern countryside of Aleppo.
On March 22, 2020, the Syrian Civil Defense Organization launched an awareness campaign under the motto “Stay at Home” in Idlib Governorate. Before that, a number of humanitarian and relief organizations had implemented a sterilization campaign targeting schools, camps, public facilities and places of worship in Idlib governorate, as a precautionary measure against the Coronavirus at a time when the displaced people lived in a state of cautious anticipation of infection with the Coronavirus.
Activists have equally participated in awareness-raising campaigns to warn people of the threat of the Coronavirus and work to contain its spread in cities, towns and camps.
In the city of Salqeen, northern countryside of Idlib, activists have launched an initiative entitled “Protect yourself” to introduce the Coronavirus through a projection screen broadcasted in the city center and in the gathering place of the displaced, distributing masks and gloves, sensitizing civilians about the necessity of abandoning crowded places and taking preventive measures in a serious way.
"The initiative has caught the attention of civilians in the markets, especially that many of them are not aware of the methods to prevent the spread of Coronavirus," said the Campaign spokesperson Fares Wuti to Rozana.
A single laboratory
Despite the widespread epidemic around the world, there is still only one epidemiological laboratory in Idlib. It is currently under great pressure due to the limited capabilities provided by donor parties and the World Health Organization.
With the arrival of rapid testing kits for Coronavirus detection, the laboratory started working by examining samples from suspected cases.
The director of the Epidemiological Surveillance Laboratory in Idlib, Dr. Shahm Makki confirmed in press statements that "the laboratory received the primary materials for the tests. It also received 900 samples from the Support Coordination Unit and 300 from the World Health Organization."
Maekki indicated that the results of the examinations were sent to the early warning and epidemics network, which in turn makes comparisons and issues the final announcement.
The Support Coordination Unit had received 600 Coronavirus sample tests from the World Health Organization.
On March 30th, the Salvation Government had already taken decisions to prevent the Coronavirus outbreak. The most significant is to stop human gatherings in the bazaars in addition to closing markets for selling birds and motorcycle markets.
The Ministry of Higher Education suspended the exam process in all public and private universities and institutes. Also, the Ministry of Education in the Government suspended courses, closed public schools, private institutes, and kindergartens, and took the necessary teaching methods and measures to continue the educational distance learning plan. It also warned all violators of legal accountability.
The General Administration of the crossings affiliated to the Salvation Government announced the closure of all crossings that link Idlib governorate to Aleppo countryside, which is controlled by the Syrian National Army. It justified the decision, including the closure of the Ghazawiya and Deir Ballut crossings, by ensuring the safety of civilians.