BEIRUT: The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Lebanon rose to 333 on Wednesday, an increase of 29 cases on the previous day, according to the daily report issued by the Ministry of Health.
Health Minister Hamad Hassan said, “This increase in the number of cases is normal and not catastrophic.”
He added that the nationwide lockdown issued by the government ends on March 29, but may be extended “based on field data.”
Lebanese Health Ministry on Wednesday night announced two more deaths due to coronavirus.
Lebanon closed its schools and universities on Feb. 29. Restaurants and cafés were ordered to close on March 11 and the government announced a full lockdown, meaning citizens were told to stay at home, on March 15. Lebanon’s borders were closed on March 18.
Hospitals and health authorities continue to prepare for the spread of COVID-19 to get worse, increasing the capacity of hospitals and allocating additional places to quarantine those who are infected.
The data issued by the National Disaster Management Operations Room at the Cabinet Office shows that most of the COVID-19 cases are in Byblos, Baabda, Beirut, Keserwan, and Matn.
Among the confirmed cases in Lebanon are one Saudi, one Qatari, one French, three Egyptian, one Austrian, three Syrian, two Dutch, two Sudanese, one British, two Bangladeshi, two Ethiopian, one Togan, and two Iranian nationals.
Both Ukraine — on Tuesday — and Kuwait — on Wednesday — sent planes to Lebanon to pick to transport their citizens back to their homelands, with the permission of the Lebanese authorities.
Foreign Minister Nassif Youssef Hitti said calls are being made to governments of countries where there are Lebanese students unable to return home. The goal is to provide them with support in light of the measures taken by Lebanese banks to prevent the transfer of dollar deposits abroad.
A hotline has been allocated for all Lebanese embassies abroad to listen to the requests of Lebanese citizens, he explained, adding that information is available on embassy websites to help the Lebanese abroad.
Hitti said: “We endeavor to develop a social safety net, and our embassies call on all Lebanese expatriates to provide financial and in-kind assistance to people inside Lebanon as well. There have been positive responses, and several accounts have been created for donating to Lebanon. We will do what is necessary to raise the bar for transfers to Lebanese people, especially students who are stuck abroad.”
While home quarantine has meant thousands of Lebanese people are unable to work, Minister of Social Affairs Ramzi Musharrafieh announced the launch of a rapid response plan, which includes the development of a database to identify those most in need of the ministry’s assistance. He said the assistance — consisting of food and cleaning supplies — would initially be provided to the most vulnerable, including seniors, people with special needs, families of landmine casualties, families of public-vehicle drivers, families of fishermen, families of prisoners, and families of laid-off workers.
“The Lebanese army will carry out the process of packaging and sanitizing the rations and distributing them to beneficiaries in coordination with the Ministry of Social Affairs,” he added.
The body of a Lebanese man who died in Qatar was repatriated this week. Saad, 38 — whose family have asked that his family name not be disclosed) — survived cancer as a teenager. He worked in Doha and lived with his family, who were unable to accompany his body back to Lebanon. Saad was reportedly suffering from chest pains but refused to go to hospital as he was worried that he would contract COVID-19 and he hoped the pain would go away on its own. He died of a heart attack.