The nightmare manifested in the form of the coronavirus has, according to reports, finally reached Lebanon on 21 February 2020. The virus that first originated in china has been now found in the Mediterranean coast. As for now, 110,000 people were infected worldwide and 4,091 cases ended up in death.
It is not unbiased to claim that the year 2020 has not been kind to the world in general, but this year has been extra harsh on Lebanon in specific. Following the anti-government protests and the economic crisis, the Lebanese citizens now find themselves in the face of the virus outbreak.
Confirmed cases of COVID-19
on 21 February 2020, a 45-year-old woman arriving from Qom, Iran tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Soon after, new positive cases of people who shared the same flight as her started to emerge. Thus reaching 41 confirmed cases as of 10 March 2020. Experts are expecting the outbreak to grow even more in the upcoming days. Almost All the current patients appear to be stable and secure in the Rafic al Hariri hospital where they are being currently treated.
Precautions against COVID-19
Health Minister Hamad Hassan is trying to assure the citizens by stating that the situation “is under control”. The confirmed patients are being treated at Hariri state hospital. There, 140 beds are prepared to isolate and monitor suspected cases.
Moreover, The Health Ministry has urged all people arriving in Lebanon from countries with a large outbreak of the virus to comply with instructions of self-quarantine at their homes. The ministry also provided a hotline to use in case of detecting any symptoms.
Furthermore, the minister of education Dr. Tarek Majzoub has requested all educational institutions, from preschools to universities, to close their doors in hopes of minimizing the outbreak. In addition, the government has called off some public events and even ceased flights for non-residents from epicenters of the virus. Sports tournaments have been postponed and cultural events canceled. However, it seems they issued the last precaution a little bit too late.
In addition, Economy Minister Raoul Nehme has issued a protocol banning the export of critical protective equipment on February 22. These banned gears consist of rubber gloves, face masks or respirators, and shoe covers.
On the other hand, Lebanon is now denying entry to non-resident foreigners arriving from China, South Korea, Iran, and Italy.
Lastly, Prime Minister Hassan Diab declared on Saturday 7 March, that the country would suspend payment on Eurobonds.
The health system strain
Even with the health minister’s efforts to calm and reassure the masses, Lebanese citizens are still relentless. Institutions are not capable of importing the needed medical supplies due to u.s dollar shortage. At the same time, hospitals are suffering a dangerous deficiency in almost everything from dialysis equipment to syringes.
Additionally, the procedure planned for the people arriving in the country, which only consists of requesting the arrivals to self-quarantine, is simply not sufficient. Hence, it is the core reason Lebanon is facing such a crisis.
The precedent cases of corruption and the current economic problem have made the Lebanese citizens skeptical and not so keen on trusting the government. “Whether its coronavirus, or any disease, or any problem, the government isn’t prepared to deal with anything,” said 41-year-old real estate broker Samir al-Mohtar.
Even after the positive cases were reported, protests against the government did not stop. People yet stand in the streets protesting against the current corrupt government.
Critical protective equipment and gear such as facemasks, Dettol and other hygiene products are being monopolized and sold twice their price in the stores. Nonetheless, the fear of the shortage has caused people to buy them in large quantities, increasing by that the shortage.
On Tuesday, 10 March 2020, the death of a 56-year-old man was recorded. The ministry official reported to AFP that said patient had been receiving treatment at Beirut’s Rafic Hariri state hospital before his death.
The deceased had recently returned from Egypt, where he probably was infected.
To aid with this epidemic crisis, France sent out a shipment filled with medical equipment. That shipment included 500 personal protection outfits, 1,000 pairs of gloves, 50 protection boots and 50 thermometers.
On the other hand, travel restriction from and to Lebanon intensified. Both Saudi Arabia and Qatar announced that due to the current situation, flights to Lebanon are being paused until further notice.
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