Monday, June 14, 2021

What's it like living in Syria during pandemic?



Hummam Sheikh Ali

Damascus, 7 June (2021) - Walking down the streets of Damascus, visitors would immediately notice that COVID-19 has not been taken seriously as very few people wear masks and those who do cover their faces are largely regarded as sick or "paranoid."

Buses and public transportations are usually jam-packed with unmasked people, who are mostly preoccupied with their struggle to make ends meet amid a tough economic situation.

Fear over a virus seems faraway for many Syrians who have lived through a 10-year war, during which they have seen killings, witnessed explosions and terrorism. When the war was raging, people thought it was the toughest time and that nothing worse could happen. However, life has surprised them with what's even worse.

"Do you have Corona?" a taxi driver, not wearing a mask, responded when asked about mask-wearing while taking a ride downtown. "I want to make sure I am safe," he said.

His reaction is typical among Syrians, believing that masks are for those who are already sick.

Another taxi driver reacted to mask-wearing by wondering "are you a doctor?" And when he got the answer no, the man said "because you look like doctors who are paranoid about their health and take extra care of themselves."

Despite government's warnings, parties and gatherings in public places are taking place, with only very few wearing masks.

Deniz, a housewife, told Xinhua that she let her guard down because she can no longer tolerate extra attention and constant cleaning.

"When (the) coronavirus was first reported, I became so obsessed with cleaning and disinfecting. But I no longer have the energy to do that anymore," she said with a quick eye-rolling.   

Her stance was similar to that of the majority of Syrians nowadays, as the lasting pandemic has made people become less alert.   

"Herd immunity," said Maher, a journalist, when asked about how people live in Syria nowadays without being extra cautious. "I think many people are getting sick and recover so somehow this society has developed what is called herd immunity."

Despite all of that, some voices on social media expressed astonishment over the people's reluctance to even wear a mask when they go out.

Kinda, a housewife, usually posts photos of public gatherings and asks "why?" "I don't know why people are taking it so easily. Why don't they wear masks?" she said.

She received some similar reactions from like-minded friends, mainly criticizing those who don't adhere to public safety guidelines.

Roushdy is one of those who rarely wears a mask. He believes that no matter what people do, they cannot guarantee complete protection because they could be infected with the virus in too many ways.

"If you live in a big family, it's difficult to wear a mask at home and if you are sure about yourself, you cannot be sure about who other family members have met with," he said.

The 30-year-old said that his father had picked up the virus when waiting in line at the bakery store to get subsidized bread, noting that later most of his family members got infected.

Recently, the Health Ministry launched an online service for people to register and receive the COVID-19 vaccines.

The health authorities mainly offer the vaccines to elderly people and those with chronic illnesses. Though many are registering online for their parents, quite a few are afraid of possible side effects.

"I registered for my mother online, and we received the confirmation and the date (to get vaccinated) within a week," Omar, a man from Damascus, posted on his social media page.

Many young people like Omar are also encouraging others to register for the vaccine to protect their fellow countrymen against the pandemic.

"I think that the vaccine will give people the opportunity to live a normal life again, particularly here where people are not really careful about the protection means against the pandemic," Omar said.