Coronavirus live updates: Total U.S. coronavirus cases hit 30 million mark as infections rise in most states

Coronavirus live updates: Total U.S. coronavirus cases hit 30 million mark as infections rise in most states


BEIRUT — The Syrian ambassador to Russia confirmed Thursday that the vaccine shipment the country received in late February was the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, and was given by Russia, which the government had not announced at the time.

Ambassador Riad Haddad also said the Russians promised the ministry of health additional doses of the vaccine, to come in April, the Syrian government-aligned newspaper Al-Watan quoted him as saying. Russian media also carried comments from Haddad saying Syria had already begun vaccinating health-care workers in the capital and other cities with the Russian vaccine.

The first shipment of vaccines, which the government said was given to health-care workers who are most at risk of contracting the coronavirus, came under mysterious circumstances. Syrian Health Minister Hasan al-Ghabbash announced that an unspecified amount was received “from a friendly country.” Both Russia and China are allies of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, backing him through the past decade of civil war and economic ruin.

The shipment followed media reports that said Israel, Syria’s sworn enemy, was set to finance a shipment of Russian vaccines, as part of a prisoner exchange deal with Syria. Damascus came under fire for accepting such an offer from a foe, and Syrian state news agency SANA confirmed the prisoner exchange but denied a vaccine deal took place.

Over the past year, the war-ravaged country has announced overall low numbers of coronavirus cases, with the official number below 18,000 total and slightly fewer than 1,200 deaths. But doctor unions have contradicted government numbers, placing themselves in danger. The sharp absence of sufficient testing across the country has made things murkier. And the numbers of new cases and deaths have been slowly on the rise in past weeks, reaching a record 172 cases Monday.

Syria had approved Russia’s Sputnik vaccine in February. The country was also approved for the World Health Organization’s Covax program, which will begin vaccinations in Syria in April.


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