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Syrian Elections Delayed a Second Time Because of Coronavirus

FILE - In this photo released April 18, 2020, by the Syrian official news agency SANA, a Syrian woman and her sons wear masks to protect against the coronavirus as they walk on a street in Damascus.

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad issued a decree Thursday postponing the country's parliamentary elections until July — the second such delay in light of restrictions in place to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The elections were initially scheduled for April 13, then in March were delayed by presidential decree until May 20. The latest decree pushes the new date to July 19; it said only that the move was part of the government's "preventive measures to combat coronavirus."

Syria has recorded only 45 cases of infections and three deaths because of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

The Syrian government has begun gradually easing restrictions imposed since mid-March to fight the virus, but schools and universities remain closed and a nighttime curfew is in place.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Thursday that the United Nations had "assessed the needs and identified $385 million in additional requirements for 2020 to address COVID-19 across Syria."

Syria has already elected two parliaments since the start of the 2011 uprising, which plunged the country into a civil war that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced millions. The last parliament was elected in April 2016, when large parts of Syria were outside government control and people there did not take part in the polling.