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.


Sheikha Shamma calls for balance between economic, environmental resilience

Updated 7 min 49 sec ago

Sheikha Shamma calls for balance between economic, environmental resilience

  • UAE royal: Coronavirus pandemic necessitates “a more sustainable future”
  • “We must adopt technologies and business models that increase both financial and environmental efficiency,” she said

LONDON: The spread of coronavirus has given the world an opportunity to strike a balance between building economic and environmental resilience, the UAE’s Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan said on Thursday during a webinar attended by Arab News.
“As governments, we must continue to encourage the diversification of GDP (gross domestic product) contribution and exploration of new and sustainable industries. As investors, we need to make more responsible decisions with our investments,” said Sheikha Shamma, who is CEO of Alliances for Global Sustainability and founder of the Circle of Hope foundation.
“As businesses, we must adopt technologies and business models that increase both financial and environmental efficiency. And as individuals, we must rethink our approach to these sources, support local producers and work toward creating a circular economy,” she added.
“My hope is that in these difficult times, we won’t just find ways to overcome challenges but seek out opportunities that pave the way toward a more sustainable future.”
The webinar, titled “The State of the Environment post-COVID,” was hosted by the UK-based Emirates Society.
It featured Lord Goldsmith, UK minister of state for the Pacific, international environment, climate and forests, and animal welfare, as well as Dominic Jermey, director general of the Zoological Society of London.
“The numbers really speak for themselves, and they reflect a litany of devastation,” Lord Goldsmith said. He highlighted how populations of animals have on average more than halved, with around 1 million species facing extinction within decades, while every minute on average the world loses 30 football pitches worth of forests.
“A third of marine animals are threatened with extinction and, if trends continue, we’re told that by 2050 the oceans will contain more plastic than fish, as measured by waves,” he said.
“We need economists, businesses and markets to develop tools fast to value things like nature and attach a cost to things that we need to phase out like emissions, deforestation, plastic pollution and so on.”
Jermey, who was Britain’s ambassador to the UAE from 2010 to 2014, called COVID-19 a “wake-up call.”
He added: “Those pathogens, that 75 percent of emerging infectious diseases that move from wildlife to people, are increasingly making that transition. We have to rethink, holistically, our relationship with nature.”