Syrians headed to polling stations in regime-held parts of the war-torn country yesterday to elect a new parliament amid strict health measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The one-day vote has been postponed twice since April due to the global coronavirus pandemic, which has officially infected 496 people and killed 25 in regime-held areas while pundits claim the actual numbers are likely to be far higher.
The polls opened at 7 a.m. (4 a.m. GMT) and will continue for 12 hours in the government-controlled areas, an election commission said.
The vote is the third to take place in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011. It has killed more than 400,000, displaced half the country’s population and forced more than 5 million refugees to flee mostly to neighboring countries.
The head of the Higher Judicial Committee for the Elections, Judge Samer Zumriq, confirmed on Saturday in a statement to state news agency SANA that more than 7,400 polling stations have been set up in 15 voting districts. They include 1,400 stations where troops and members of the country’s security services will vote.
The Syrian regime has conducted coronavirus tests only in Damascus’ central lab, making it hard to track infections. For instance, the areas under the control of the YPG/PKK – home to 4 million people – have had to send test samples by plane to the capital.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a Britain-based war monitor, also said back in March that doctors had received threats from the regime not to disclose the number of COVID-19 cases. “Doctors have been instructed to refer to cases that are suspected to be corona infections as severe pneumonia,” said the SOHR director, Rami Abdulrahman.
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