The Latest: Rebel-held NW Syria facing unprecedented surge

Rebel-held northwest Syria is facing an unprecedented coronavirus surge and aid agencies are calling on the world to help provide humanitarian and medical aid, increase hospital capacity and ensure people are vaccinated

BEIRUT — Rebel-held northwest Syria is facing an unprecedented coronavirus surge and aid agencies are calling on the world to help provide humanitarian and medical aid, increase hospital capacity and ensure people are vaccinated.

The surge apparently caused by the more contagious delta variant has overwhelmed hospitals with sick patients and is causing shortages of oxygen, according to local officials. The local rebel-run authority imposed a nighttime curfew as of Tuesday while schools and universities were closed and students are getting distant learning.

The region is home to 4 million people, many of them internally displaced people by Syria’s 10-year conflict.

Dr. Khaula Sawah, president of The International Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations, or UOSSM, says international aid is urgently needed “to prevent a humanitarian disaster. Millions of lives are at stake.”

The rate of positive test results — an indication of the level of virus spread — is around 55%, according to UOSSM and Christian humanitarian organization, World Vision. Only 1.3% of people are vaccinated, according to World Vision.

Local medical authorities say the number of registered coronavirus cases in the region reached nearly 77,000 while deaths reached 1,357.

“People are dying in Northwest Syria because they cannot access hospitals,” says Johan Mooij, World Vision Syria Response Director said in a statement released Thursday.

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— More than 120,000 US children had caregivers die during pandemic

— WHO working to get COVID-19 medical supplies to North Korea

— Virus measures stop legal return of thousands to New Zealand

— Health officials say it’s OK to get COVID-19 and flu vaccines at same time

— See all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam’s airlines will resume domestic flights on Sunday, after the country suspended their operation in July to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

In the first phase of the resumption, passengers must be vaccinated with at least one shot and hold a negative virus test to board flights, according to the plan announced by the civil aviation authority Thursday. Carriers can board only half of each plane’s seat capacity.

Noi Bai airport in Hanoi, Vietnam’s major city in the northern region, will remain closed for domestic flights. The city authority said on Wednesday it was not ready to receive a large volume of travelers, who could potentially spread the virus.

The outbreak fueled by the delta variant that began in July was Vietnam’s worst, infecting over 800,000 people and killing more than 20,000. More than half of the 98 million population was under lockdown for almost three months.

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TOLEDO, Ohio — The number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. is falling and the number of new cases per day is about to dip below 100,000 for the first time in two months.

All are encouraging signs that the summer surge is waning. Government leaders and employers not wanting to lose momentum are looking to strengthen and expand vaccine mandates.

Los Angeles has enacted one of the nation’s strictest vaccine mandates. Minnesota’s governor is calling for vaccine and testing requirements for teachers and long-term care workers. Health experts say there are still far too many unvaccinated people. In New York, a statewide vaccination mandate for all hospital and nursing home workers will be expanded Thursday to home care and hospice employees.

Across the nation, deaths per day have dropped by nearly 15% since mid-September and are averaging about 1,750. New cases have fallen to just over 103,000 per day on average, a 40% decline in the past three weeks.

The number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 has declined by about one-quarter since its most recent peak of almost 94,000 a month ago.

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