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Syria's Bashar Assad And His Wife Test Positive For Coronavirus

Syrian President Bashar Assad and his wife, Asma, have tested positive for the coronavirus after experiencing mild COVID-19 symptoms, his office said Monday.

The couple received PCR tests after experiencing minor symptoms consistent with the virus, according to an official statement from the presidential office, as reported by the state-controlled SANA news agency. Both are in "good health and in a stable condition," the statement said.

Assad, 55, and Asma, 45, will continue to work during an expected two to three weeks of in-home isolation, it said.

Syria has reported fewer than 16,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,063 COVID-19-related deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

But with low levels of PCR testing, some experts say the numbers could be much higher, as NPR reported last year.

In September, the U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock told the Security Council that it was not possible to determine the full extent of the pandemic in Syria until testing ramped up.

Last month, Syria's health minister, Hassan Ghabash, said Damascus had received vaccine doses from a "friendly country" but did not say which country.

However, Israeli media reported thatIsrael agreed to pay Russia more than $1 million to provide its Sputnik V vaccine to Syria as part of a deal to help secure the release of an Israeli woman held in Syria. Syria has denied the report and Russia declined to comment, according to The Associated Press.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.