Lebanon virus death a ‘turning point,’ warns health chief

The Lebanese Health Ministry staff wait for passengers to be screened for the coronavirus at the airport in Beirut. (AP)
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Updated 11 March 2020

Lebanon virus death a ‘turning point,’ warns health chief

  • Bank sends 20 staff home to self-isolation as ‘preventive measure’

BEIRUT: Lebanon announced its first death from coronavirus on Tuesday, with the country’s health minister warning the fatality marked a “turning point in dealing with the situation.”

The victim, Jean Khoury, 57, from Obeidat in Byblos, died in a Beirut hospital. He had returned to Lebanon from Egypt on Feb. 21, however confirmation of his infection was delayed because the World Health Organization had failed to declare Egypt a risk country.
“Khoury’s infection was confirmed five days after he came back from Egypt. He stayed in a Byblos hospital before being transferred to Rafik Hariri University Hospital (RHUH) in Beirut, which was equipped to receive coronavirus-infected patients. His condition remained stable until Monday,” said the Lebanese Minister of Health Hamad Hassan.
“This loss constitutes a turning point in dealing with the situation. Special measures will be adopted in the burial of coronavirus victims. We are required to be realistic in light of these developments,” Hassan added.
RHUH continues to receive dozens of suspected cases for testing each day.
According to the hospital’s reports, about 10 percent are admitted to quarantine while the rest are told to self-isolate at home for two weeks, the incubation period of the virus.
Three patients are still in a critical condition in the isolation unit, while the total number of confirmed cases rose to 52 on Tuesday, 11 more than the previous day, the hospital said.
Five of those work at a Byblos hospital and two others at a Beirut hospital, which the ministry believes is a significant development in terms of the spread of the virus.
Four university hospitals joined RHUH in carrying out coronavirus testing to speed up delivery of results in suspected cases.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The victim, Jean Khoury, 57, from Obeidat in Byblos, died in a Beirut hospital.

• He had returned to Lebanon from Egypt, but confirmation of his infection was delayed because the WHO had failed to declare Egypt a risk country.

“Two hundred tests are being conducted every day. This exceeds the capacity of RHUH’s  laboratory,” said Suleiman Haroun, head of the Private Hospitals’ Owners Syndicate.
Meanwhile, the Bank of Beirut sent 20 staff home to self-quarantine as “a preventive measure” until test results are issued.
The employees had joined a social event with a person who was found to be infected the following day.
Andrea Tenenti, official spokesperson of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, said that “all necessary preventive measures” have been taken to protect the 11,000 military and civilian peacekeepers against the virus.
“One of our soldiers stationed in the village of Maarakeh showed some symptoms after returning from Egypt.
“When our medical unit discovered this, we contacted the Lebanese authorities and quarantined all those who had been in contact with the soldier,” Tenenti said.
“Even when the tests came back negative, we imposed strict medical rules and measures on all our military and civilian personnel to prevent or reduce the spread of the virus.”
Lebanon’s ministries stepped up efforts to combat the spread of the virus, with the Ministry of Culture on Tuesday announcing that all museums will be closed.
Beirut closed all its public parks after children began playing there following the closure of schools.
Universities, cafes, cinemas and theaters have also been closed while people have been urged to stay at home and take preventive measures in the workplace.


Iran says black boxes of downed Ukraine plane of ‘no help’

In this file photo taken on January 8, 2020 rescue teams work amidst debris after a Ukrainian plane carrying 176 passengers crashed near Imam Khomeini airport in the Iranian capital Tehran early in the morning on January 8, killing everyone on board. (AFP)
Updated 9 min 27 sec ago

Iran says black boxes of downed Ukraine plane of ‘no help’

  • Ottawa has demanded for several months that Iran, which does not have the technical means to decode the black boxes, send the items abroad so that their content can be analyzed

TEHRAN: The black boxes of a Ukrainian plane mistakenly downed near Tehran airport will be of “no help” in any investigation, but Iran is ready to transfer them abroad, state media said Saturday.
Flight 752, an Ukraine International Airlines jetliner, was struck by a missile and crashed shortly after taking off from the Tehran airport on January 8.
“Even though the investigation is nearly complete and the contents of the boxes will be of no help for the investigation, we are ready to give them to a third country or to a (foreign) company,” Mohsen Baharvand, deputy foreign affairs minister, was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.
In the immediate aftermath of the crash, Iranian civilian authorities insisted it was likely caused by a technical malfunction, vehemently denying claims the plane was shot down.
But in the early hours of January 11, the Iranian military admitted that the plane was shot down due to “human error,” killing 176 people, mainly Iranians and Canadians, including many dual nationals.
Ottawa has demanded for several months that Iran, which does not have the technical means to decode the black boxes, send the items abroad so that their content can be analyzed.
After Tehran said in March it was ready to transfer the black boxes to France or Ukraine, Canada’s foreign minister Francois-Philippe Champagne guardedly welcomed a “step in the right direction,” while noting that he would judge Iranian authorities on “their actions and not just their words.”
In his interview with IRNA, Baharvand implied that Iran had certain conditions for transferring the black boxes abroad, but did not elaborate.