Coronavirus News Asia

Syrian exile medics fighting Europe’s virus war

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BRUSSELS — Mask, glasses, and surgical cap: Fadi Dalati’s face is almost unrecognizable, but one can guess the dark circles under his eyes.

“This hospital is the reference center in Belgium for infectious diseases. We are on the front line against this pandemic,” said the doctor, who works at the Saint-Pierre University Hospital, in Brussels.

He does not use such expressions lightly: where he comes from, war is not a matter of rhetoric.

Like thousands of other Syrian physicians, this thirty-year-old from Homs has found refuge in Europe to escape the conflict that has ravaged Syria for almost a decade. Many of them are now at the forefront of the battle against the novel coronavirus in their host country.

“Belgium was there for me when I arrived in 2013 and needed help. Now, the country needs me, so I’m doing my best,” he told Asia Times.

Outside, rows of green tents have been set up in the hospital parking lot to sort out virus-free patients from those likely to be affected with Covid-19. A few steps away, a black hearse patiently awaits in front of the morgue: from reception to passing, nothing is left to chance.

With 11.4 million inhabitants and more than 8,000 victims, Belgium has the highest per-capita death rate in the world.

“The empty streets, the people locked inside their homes… It reminds me of Syria in times of war,” said Abod, 27, who works in the sterile storage area in another Brussels hospital.

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