Lebanon closes land, air and sea borders as UN offers help to fight virus

President Michel Aoun on Thursday presided over a Lebanese Cabinet session wearing a face mask. (AP)
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Updated 19 March 2020

Lebanon closes land, air and sea borders as UN offers help to fight virus

  • Lebanon currently has 149 confirmed cases of COVID-19 disease

BEIRUT: Lebanon has become one of the latest countries to close its land, air and sea borders in a bid to slow the spread of the killer coronavirus and avoid overwhelming hospitals.

President Michel Aoun on Thursday presided over a Lebanese Cabinet session wearing a face mask and ministers were asked to don gloves and face shields while keeping a safe distance between each other to help prevent transmission of the virus.

“It was my first time wearing a face mask because the risk has increased,” said Minister of Health Hamad Hassan at the end of the meeting.

“Six new unknown-source cases were detected. They were the result of a community transmission, which makes the situation more dangerous. I requested the isolation of the two regions with the highest number of cases. I also asked the security forces to be strict to the point of prohibiting people from leaving their houses,” he added.

Lebanon currently has 149 confirmed cases of COVID-19 disease, with four deaths.

Meanwhile, during a meeting with representatives of international organizations, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: “The UN is ready to assist Lebanon, its government and people during these difficult times facing the country, the region and the world.”

Despite power cuts and water shortages in some parts of the country, many Lebanese citizens set up temporary offices to work from home. Meanwhile, security personnel issued tickets to those breaching government orders banning gatherings and the opening of stores.

Private and public transport in the country has almost ground to a halt, but food shops did not report any of the frantic scenes of panic buying witnessed in Europe and the US.

As cases of the virus continued to rise, Rafik Hariri University Hospital (RHUH) on the outskirts of southern Beirut, said it was running short of coronavirus testing kits and would have to limit their use to urgent patients only until a delivery of 20,000 packs arrived from abroad.

Hassan ordered private laboratories conducting coronavirus tests to “report any confirmed cases or risk penalties.”

Lebanon’s airport-closure move excluded UNIFIL (UN Interim Force in Lebanon) aircraft, diplomatic missions accredited in Lebanon, international organizations, cargo flights and passengers working for oil and gas exploration companies.

In a message to employees and the Lebanese people, Mohamad El-Hout, chairman of Middle East Airlines (MEA), which has been forced to ground its fleet, said: “MEA had faced many similar hardships before, where its fleet was grounded for many days. However, the company is able to overcome this situation and has the capabilities to do so. We will receive new aircraft and fly again.”

One pilot and two flight attendants were infected while working on flights bringing Lebanese citizens back home from countries affected by the coronavirus.

Lebanese workers faced with the prospect of being laid off due to business closures have been appealing for financial help.

“The private sector is living the most difficult and dangerous stage of its history because all the negative factors have hit the country at once, with the latest one being the spread of the coronavirus,” said Mohamed Choucair, president of the Lebanese economic organizations.

“I hope that the general mobilization and the health emergency declared by the government were accompanied by a set of incentives to cut the losses institutions are suffering from in the same way that other countries have,” the former minister added.

He warned that a social explosion would be disastrous for the country.

UAE warns of $13,600 fine for returnees who break quarantine rules

Updated 16 July 2020

UAE warns of $13,600 fine for returnees who break quarantine rules

  • Quarantine period vary from seven days to 14, depending on where the returnees are coming from

DUBAI: UAE residents who are returning from overseas must comply with quarantine rules or face a fine of $13,600, local daily Gulf News has reported.
The government earlier announced it would ease travel restrictions to a number of countries, with airlines set to resume operations by Aug. 1.
The National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Management Authority (NCEMA) said those who are returning to the UAE “should follow federal and local guidelines for COVID-19,” including quarantine and test procedures.
Returnees coming from low-risk countries are required to isolate for seven days, while those travelling from high-risk areas are subject to a 14-day mandatory quarantine.
“All costs for quarantining and medical assistance, whether at home or in another designated facility will be at the cost of the individual primarily,” NCEMA said.
Meanwhile, individuals who wish to take a rapid coronavirus test to enter Abu Dhabi can only do so through a booking system.
The Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee said prior appointment is necessary to undergo the screening due to high demand.
Booking can be done on a dedicated website.