Lebanon confirms first coronavirus case as death toll hits 4 in Iran

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Lebanon's Minister of Health Hamad Hasan and Iman Shantiki, WHO representative in Lebanon, attend a news conference, after the country's first case of the novel coronavirus was confirmed, in Beirut on Feb. 21, 2020. (REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir)
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People wearing face masks walk outside Beirut's Rafik Hariri hospital, where Lebanon's first coronavirus case is being quarantined on Feb. 21, 2020. (REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir)
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Updated 22 February 2020

Lebanon confirms first coronavirus case as death toll hits 4 in Iran

  • Found in 45-year-old Lebanese woman who travelled from Qom in Iran
  • Kuwait Airways announced it would suspend all flights to Iran as Kuwaitis were advised not to travel to Qom

BEIRUT: New coronavirus cases surged across the Middle East on Friday, after a rapid spread in Iran, where authorities say the death toll from the virus has hit four, prompting alarm and travel bans. 

Since December, the SARS-like virus has killed more than 2,200 people in China, the epidemic’s epicenter.

In the Middle East, two elderly men in Iran were the first confirmed deaths from the virus, which has also spread to the UAE, Egypt, Israel and Lebanon.


Iran’s Health Ministry on Friday reported two more deaths among 13 new diagnosed cases of the COVID-19 virus, doubling the total number of deaths in the country.

Hours later, Lebanon confirmed the first case. “The plane that arrived from the Iranian city of Qom was carrying 150 passengers,” a source from the medical emergency team that was formed to deal with the case told Arab News. 

“Lebanon received a warning from its embassy in Tehran about a plane carrying potential coronavirus cases, coming from the region in which Iranian authorities have monitored several infections,” the source said.

“A medical team hurried to the plane, Mahan Air flight W5115, as soon as it landed in Beirut on Thursday night. Passengers were all tested, and as 45-year-old Souad Sakr showed symptoms, she was taken directly to isolation and provided with all the medical requirements.”

Israel on Friday also confirmed its first case in a citizen who flew home from Japan. 

Kuwait Airways announced it would suspend all flights to Iran. Kuwaitis were advised not to travel to Qom. 

Young women wearing protective masks walk outside Beirut's Rafik Hariri University Hospital, where a woman is treated for coronavirus, on Feb. 21, 2020. (AFP / JOSEPH EID)

The UAE said a Filipino and a Bangladeshi were infected with the virus, bringing to 11 the number of cases in the country. More cases monitored

The Lebanese team is monitoring two other potential cases. Lebanese Health Minister Hamad Hassan told a press conference: “A floor in the government hospital in Beirut was allocated to receive any potential cases. There’s no need for excessive panic.

“The medical team is following up on passengers who were taken to their homes, and any person who shows symptoms will be taken to the hospital.

“People who arrived from Iran less than 14 days ago are asked to remain isolated until we make sure they haven’t been infected,” he added.

The COVID-19 outbreak first appeared in Iran on Wednesday.

Tehran has now confirmed a total of four deaths and 18 infections by the SARS-like virus, which first emerged in China in late December.

Thousands of Lebanese travel to Iran every year to visit Shiite holy sites in Qom and other cities.

(With AFP)


International summit urges UN to take tougher action against Iran

Updated 19 September 2020

International summit urges UN to take tougher action against Iran

  • More than 100,000 people from Europe, the US and Iran took part in the online Transatlantic Summit to Support a Free Iran
  • Among them were Republican and Democratic US politicians who set aside domestic differences to join the condemnation of the Iranian regime

CHICAGO: An international summit of activists and political leaders on Friday called on the UN to get tough on Iran’s “murderous, terrorist” government by implementing stronger sanctions against the regime in Tehran.

More than 100,000 people from Europe, the US and Iran took part in the online Transatlantic Summit to Support a Free Iran, which was organized by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI).

Among them were Republican and Democratic US politicians who set aside domestic differences to join the condemnation of the Iranian regime and demand an end to its campaign of repression.

Several speakers highlighted a “new wave of executions” in Iran stemming from mass protests that began in 2018 and surged again in November 2019 after the Iranian regime increased the price of gasoline.

There was an international outcry this week after it was announced on Sept. 12 that Navid Afkari, an Iranian national wrestling champion, had been executed. He was arrested during the 2018 protests and accused of killing a security guard, a charge he denied.

“His only crime was to rise up and fight to overthrow a regime that has devastated Iran and drenched it in blood while plundering the nation,” said Maryam Rajavi, the newly elected president of NCRI, during her opening remarks at the summit.

“The people of Iran had been protesting for weeks against the death sentence handed down to him by (Iranian Supreme Leader Ali) Khamenei’s judiciary. The people of Iran, human-rights advocates, freedom lovers and athletes launched an unprecedented worldwide campaign to stop the inhuman verdict.

“Today, Navid Afkari lives on in the hearts and struggle of thousands of resistance units in Iran, (which) will continue to resist and rise up for freedom and justice.”

The Iranian leadership has a long history of executing activists who oppose its rule. In 1988, more than 30,000 protesters were rounded up and put to death. Rajavi said that Iran’s leaders should face justice for those killings and the murders that followed in the following three decades.

“The experience of the past 40 years of the clerical regime’s rule in Iran has shown that it has continued its rule by committing 120,000 executions on political grounds, including the 1988 massacre of 30,000 political prisoners, 90 percent of whom belonged to the PMOI,” she added.

“The regime has been condemned 66 times so far by the UN General Assembly, as well as in the Human Rights Commission and Council for its gross human rights violations.”

Iran has spent more than $30 billion to protect the regime of dictator Bashar Assad in neighboring Syria, Rajavi said, ordering Iranian militants and their allies deployed there to target and kill American soldiers and advisers.

With American politics increasingly divided in the run-up to the presidential election on Nov. 3, there was a rare display of harmony between Republicans and Democrats.

The long list of speakers included Republicans such as Trump adviser and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, former house speaker Newt Gingrich, and senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. On the Democratic side, senators Bob Menendez, Jeanne Shaheen and Kirsten Gillibrand, and former senator Joe Lieberman all called for tougher and more restrictive sanctions on Iran.

“Iran is a regime of terror,” Giuliani said during his live video address. “Every year brings a new year of violations of human rights, deprivation and terrorism.”

Although most speakers looked to the future, urging the UN to strengthen its sanctions against Iran, Giuliani took the opportunity to criticize former President Barack Obama for trying to “appease” Tehran in 2015 by agreeing to give the Iranians $1 billion at the time of the negotiations for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the so-called nuclear deal, under which Iran agreed to give up its research into nuclear weapons.

British MP David Jones said that the (JCPOA) and the failure to crack down on the Iranian regime had “encouraged them to pursue terrorism against its critics,” including members of the US Senate and Giuliani, who has been an outspoken critic of the regime for many years.

Other speakers including former general James Jones, who served during the Obama administration. He denounced the regime in Tehran as one that engages in “scandalous, outrageous and unspeakable cruelty to their own people.”

On Aug. 14, the UN Security Council rejected a US-led draft resolution calling for an extension of a UN arms embargo on Iran, which is due to expire in October. Trump is expected to announce this week that the US will impose its own embargo against Iran, and urge other nations to follow suit.

Rajavi criticized the UN for failing to act after the attacks on protesters last fall, or to condemn the execution of Afkari.