The appearance of the coronavirus in Syria has understandably sparked widespread concerns about its impact on the country's economy and health system in particular. At the local level there are initiatives working to try to prevent the spread of the virus. For example, the locality of Badda in Qalamoun in Damascus countryside has seen the rise of the 'Badda Volunteer Team'. On 12 April 2020 I conducted an interview with the Badda Volunteer Team's media regarding the group's work. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: When was the team formed? And is it an independent team? And how is the general situation in the village on account of the spread of corona?
A: The idea of the team was before this crisis. But because of some preoccupations it was delayed a little. But in the shade of this crisis we have been compelled to establish the team. The team is an embodiment of doctors, university-educated people and accredited people. Thus was the idea of our team: that there should be in it most of the conscious members and volunteers. Until now we are not affiliated with any organization or official party. The situation in our locality is under control.
Q: What are the measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus? Like closing the schools? And the markets?
A: The idea of the team is to establish health points to check and disinfect those entering the locality and those leaving from it. Inspection awareness-raising patrols to keep in check the gatherings in the shops and pharmacies and clinics of the doctors. The schools are closed by presidential order and the mosques as well. All the businesses are closed except the shops [i.e. selling food and basic necessities], greengrocers, pharmacies and doctors' clinic. The bakeries sell bread through the designated people to avoid gatherings.
Q: Do you fear the impact of the virus on livelihood and economic life in the locality?
A: Naturally because most of the inhabitants of the locality are daily workers, from taxi drivers to some of the owners of the closed businesses currently, and building workers etc.
Q: And as for the services like electricity and water there is no impact on them because of the virus?
A: The services of water and electricity in the locality are secured but the rationing situation [for electricity] is what is impacting most of the areas and provinces. Till now there is no shortcoming in the locality in services.
Q: So there is an impact on the rationing situation because of the spread of the virus?
A: Yes of course. But this problem's solution lies with the relevant authorities and institutions of the state.
Q: Have the prices of some of the goods risen because of the corona crisis? And how is this problem to be resolved?
A: The prices are continually rising because of increase of demand upon them [the goods] and difficulty in securing them, even some of the products have become unavailable, such as the protective masks, gloves and alcohol [sanitiser] and other things. In my opinion the solution of this problem is in the hands of the relevant authorities and the state through importing goods through the government only, and preventing the merchants from importing and manipulating the prices, because the only one capable of controlling the prices is the government, through simple profit with the products.
Q: Finally how can the people support your efforts?
A: Firstly through helping us through their remaining in their homes and complying with the curfew and the time of the curfew imposed by the government, and through our acceptance among them and through offering material support even if simple, because the team has no party supporting it, and its support is limited to the people of charity and benevolence from our locality.