DAMASCUS, Syria -- Syrian President Bashar Assad and his wife have tested positive for the coronavirus, the president's office said Monday, with both having only mild symptoms of the illness.
In a statement, Assad’s office said the first couple did PCR tests after they experienced minor symptoms consistent with the COVID-19 illness. It said Assad, 55, and his wife Asma, who is 10 years younger and announced her recovery from breast cancer in 2019, will continue to work from home where they will isolate between two to three weeks.
The announcement came days after international and Israeli media reports revealed that Israel paid Russia $1.2 million to provide the Syrian government with coronavirus vaccines. It was reportedly part of a deal that secured the release of an Israeli woman held in Damascus. The terms of the clandestine trade-off negotiated by Moscow remained murky. Damascus denied it happened and Russia had no comment.
Israeli bankrolling of Syria’s vaccination efforts would be an embarrassment for Assad’s government, which considers Israel its main regional enemy.
It was not immediately clear if Assad, who has been in power since taking over from his late father in 2000, or any of his family members have been vaccinated.
Syria has been mired in civil war for the past 10 years since anti-government protests that began as part of Arab Spring uprisings turned to an insurgency in response to a military crackdown. A decade of fighting has resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions.