Lebanon suspends repatriation flights for virus-stranded nationals until April 27

Thousands of people have registered with Lebanese embassies around the world to return home because of the COVID-19 outbreak. (AFP)
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Updated 15 April 2020

Lebanon suspends repatriation flights for virus-stranded nationals until April 27

  • Humanitarian foundation pledges to cover costs of flying home Lebanese students from France, Italy and Ukraine

BEIRUT: Lebanon has suspended repatriation flights until April 27 for thousands of nationals trapped abroad by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.

The Lebanese Cabinet committee tasked with bringing home stranded citizens said the move was designed “to maintain the capacity of hospitals and hotels designated for isolation and to re-evaluate the measures taken.”

Meanwhile, Alwaleed Bin Talal Humanitarian Foundation announced that it would bear the costs of flying home students from Italy, France and Ukraine, while Middle East Airlines (MEA), Lebanon’s national flag carrier, has offered a 50 percent discount for students and allowed their family members to pay for flight tickets in Lebanese pounds.

The number of recorded COVID-19 cases in Lebanon on Wednesday rose by 17 – including five nationals returning from abroad – to 658.

There were 34 people newly infected by the virus among the 2,317 citizens returned to Lebanon between April 6 and 13 on 20 commercial flights, and 356 returnees on 53 private jets, that landed at Rafic Hariri International Airport on the permission of Lebanese authorities.

The COVID-19 cases had flown in from the UK, France, Spain, Liberia, Turkey, Qatar, and the UAE. The remainder of the returnees were still undergoing two weeks of home isolation to ensure that they had not contracted the deadly virus.

Thousands of people have registered with Lebanese embassies around the world to return home because of the COVID-19 outbreak, and they have been put on waiting lists drawn up by the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Some have been unable to cover their expenses due to the interruption of their business and difficulties in getting bank transfers in dollars from Lebanon, a problem which has particularly affected students.

Abdel Salam Marini, Alwaleed Bin Talal Humanitarian Foundation’s manager, said: “We are coordinating with the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and we have informed them that we will cover the cost of a full plane of students from France and another from Italy and there are hundreds of these (students) still stuck in these two countries.”

Two MEA flights, funded by the foundation, brought back 110 students last Saturday from Rome and 55 from Paris.

Marini added: “We are ready to bear the expenses of the return of more students, especially those stranded in northern Italy, and we propose to send a plane to Milan so that students can reach the airport without being exposed to infection during their movements. We will also bear the expenses of about 600 students who are still in France.”

The cost of returning Lebanese students from Ukraine would also be footed by the foundation, he said. “About 400 students are studying in the semi-free universities of this country (Ukraine) and their families cannot afford to bring them back. We are ready and communicating with (Lebanese) Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti who asked us to sponsor these students and we agreed.”

Alwaleed Bin Talal Humanitarian Foundation was established in 2003 and its initiatives and programs in Lebanon focus on addressing the social and medical needs of the country.

LIVE: Middle East returns to normal life amid strict COVID-19 measures 

Updated 31 min 40 sec ago

LIVE: Middle East returns to normal life amid strict COVID-19 measures 

DUBAI: Efforts to return life gradually back to some kind of normality in parts of the Middle East continue, as governments get ready to reopen borders and airlines take bookings for flights. 
Tunisia said it will open its sea, land and air borders on June 27 in the hope of rescuing its tourism industry as the coronavirus pandemic comes under control.
Emirates airline also announced that it was taking bookings for flights from Dubai to 12 Arab countries from the start of July. Emirates began operating scheduled flight services to nine destinations around the world from May 21, including London Heathrow, Frankfurt, Paris, Milan, Madrid, Chicago, Toronto, Sydney and Melbourne.
Meanwhile, Lebanon’s commercial complexes, hotels, cafes and museums reopened their doors to customers on Monday after closing for two-and-a-half months. 

June 2, Tuesday (GMT Times)

09:43 - New reported cases of coronavirus are steadily declining in Western Europe, but not in Russia and Eastern Europe: World Health Organization spokeswoman said.

09:34 - Formula One has unveiled an eight-race schedule in Europe from July 5 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

09:32 - Iran has reported 64 coronavirus deaths, 3,117 cases, raising total infected people to 157,562 with 7,942 fatalities.

09:20 - The number of coronavirus deaths in Britain is close to 50,000, Reuters reported.

09:07 – Hong Kong will extend restrictions on foreign visitors by another three months and an eight-person limit on group gatherings by two weeks, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said on Tuesday.
Both measures were due to expire later in June.
Travellers to Hong Kong need to undergo a mandatory 14 day quarantine period.

08:45 – 12,739 people died from coronavirus in England and Wales as of May 22, the Office for National Statistics said.

08:16 – Senegal has postponed the restart of schools until further notice after several teachers tested positive for the new coronavirus, the education ministry said late on Monday.

07:51 – Russia has confirmed 8,863 coronavirus cases and 182 deaths in the past 24 hours.

07:02 – A Wuhan doctor who worked with coronavirus whistleblower Li Wenliang died of the virus last week, state media reported Tuesday, becoming China's first COVID-19 fatality in weeks.
07:00 Paris gets some of its pre-lockdown life back as cafes and restaurants partially reopen Tuesday.
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06:45 – The first Rohingya refugee died from coronavirus in Bangladesh, an official said.

05:59Egypt has sanitized prisons and carried out tests on prisoners across the country after banning visits to help curb the spread of coronavirus, local daily Egypt Today reported.

05:50 – A cluster of nine coronavirus cases raised concerns in Hong Kong over renewed local transmission in a city that has been one of the most successful in keeping the pandemic under control. 

05:18 – The United States on Monday recorded 743 new coronavirus deaths in 24 hours, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, bringing its total to 105,099 since the global pandemic began.