Lebanon shuts schools after fourth coronavirus case

A worker cleans a classroom desk of a school closed as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus in Sidon, Lebanon February 29, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 29 February 2020

Lebanon shuts schools after fourth coronavirus case

  • Lebanon’s education ministry ordered schools and universities to close their doors for one week
  • The Grand Mufti of Lebanon said he supported “the decision by Saudi Arabia to temporarily suspend entry into its territories to do Umrah and visit the Prophet’s Mosque in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus”

BEIRUT: Lebanese authorities have closed schools and universities in the country following the discovery of a fourth coronavirus case and fears at least three other people may be infected.
Lebanon’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education ordered schools and universities to close their doors for one week after a Syrian man developed symptoms associated with the virus. 
Dr. Abdul Rahman Bizri, an infectious disease specialist and member of the emergency committee on coronavirus, told Arab News that the Syrian patient contracted the virus from his son who was in Iran and returned by air from the Iranian city of Qom.
“The young Syrian did not report sick and transmitted the virus to his father who showed symptoms and came to the hospital. So we contacted him today and put him into isolation while his father is being treated,” Bizri said.
He added that the government also is investigating two potential cases coming from Italy.
Rafik Hariri University Hospital said dozens of people had been examined in its emergency department, while airline passengers traveling from Iran had been confined to their homes.
The hospital said that 16 people had been quarantined in the hospital on doctors’ advice.
Despite the increasing number of cases, the medical emergency committee described the Ministry of Education and Higher Education’s decision to close schools as “arbitrary.”
Bizri told Arab News that the decision “was taken due to the confusion of the ministries of health and education, and it was taken for political reasons.”
Health teams at the Masnaa border crossing with Syria stepped up precautionary measures and carried out thermal testing on all overland arrivals.
Transport authorities also suspended all flights to Lebanon from countries experiencing an outbreak of coronavirus, except for Lebanese citizens or foreigners living in Lebanon. Two aircraft carrying Lebanese citizens are due to arrive from Iran on Monday and Tuesday.
The American University of Beirut (AUB) ignored the ministry’s request and opened its gates to allow students to complete their final exams.
In a tweet, AUB said that it took the decision “after consulting with experts in infectious diseases.”
Meanwhile, the Saudi Embassy in Lebanon urged Saudis to postpone all unnecessary travel to the country, and said those living in Lebanon should avoid crowded places.
Mosques and other places of worship have used sermons to instruct people on ways to protect themselves against the virus.
The Grand Mufti of Lebanon, Sheikh Abdullatif Darian, said he supported “the decision by Saudi Arabia to temporarily suspend entry into its territories to do Umrah and visit the Prophet’s Mosque in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.”
The grand mufti praised the “precautionary measures taken by the Kingdom, within the framework of Islamic Shariah, and its keenness on the safety of pilgrims and visitors of Allah coming from all over the world, and on protecting health security to contain the virus.”


German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

Updated 24 November 2020

German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

  • Germany insists it acted correctly in boarding a Turkish ship to enforce arms embargo of Libya
  • Turkey summoned European diplomats to complain at the operation

BERLIN: Germany’s defense minister on Tuesday rejected Turkey’s complaints over the search of a Turkish freighter in the Mediterranean Sea by a German frigate participating in a European mission, insisting that German sailors acted correctly.
Sunday’s incident prompted Turkey to summon diplomats representing the European Union, Germany and Italy and assert that the Libya-bound freighter Rosaline-A was subjected to an “illegal” search by personnel from the German frigate Hamburg. The German ship is part of the European Union’s Irini naval mission, which is enforcing an arms embargo against Libya.
German officials say that the order to board the ship came from Irini’s headquarters in Rome and that Turkey protested while the team was on board. The search was then ended.
Turkey says the search was “unauthorized and conducted by force.”
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer backed the German crew’s actions.
“It is important to me to make really clear that the Bundeswehr soldiers behaved completely correctly,” she said during an appearance in Berlin. “They did what is asked of them in the framework of the European Irini mandate.”
“That there is this debate with the Turkish side points to one of the fundamental problems of this European mission,” Kramp-Karrenbauer added, without elaborating. “But it is very important to me to say clearly here that there are no grounds for these accusations that are now being made against the soldiers.”
This was the second incident between Turkey and naval forces from a NATO ally enforcing an arms blockade against Libya.
In June, NATO launched an investigation over an incident between Turkish warships and a French naval vessel in the Mediterranean, after France said one of its frigates was “lit up” three times by Turkish naval targeting radar when it tried to approach a Turkish civilian ship suspected of involvement in arms trafficking.
Turkey supports a UN-backed government in Tripoli against rival forces based in the country’s east. It has complained that the EU naval operation focuses its efforts too much on the Tripoli administration and turns a blind eye to weapons sent to the eastern-based forces.
In Ankara, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that Irini was “flawed from the onset.”
“It is not based on firm international legal foundations,” Akar said. He renewed Turkey’s criticism of the German ship’s actions.
“The incident was against international laws and practices. It was wrong,” he said.
Kramp-Karrenbauer stressed that “Turkey is still an important partner for us in NATO.” Turkey being outside the military alliance would make the situation even more difficult, she argued, and Turkish soldiers are “absolutely reliable partners” in NATO missions.
But she conceded that Turkey poses “a big challenge” because of how its domestic politics have developed and because it has its “own agenda, which is difficult to reconcile with European questions in particular.”