BEIRUT: In light of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Lebanon has decided to operate evacuation trips to repatriate Lebanese citizens living in the US.
The citizens will travel through European and Arab countries after April 26, following the second lockdown period.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Nassif Hatti revealed that the government is also contacting Canadian authorities in an attempt to repatriate the Lebanese living there.
In the 1980s, Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines (MEA) was restricted from the US. This blockade was toughened after the 9/11 attacks. MEA’s last trip was organized in 1985, and ever since, it has only operated presidential trips to the US.
In a Cabinet session held on Thursday, Lebanon’s Prime Minister Hassan Diab said: “The measures we are taking to fight the pandemic have proved to be very successful in containing the virus. We must continue implementing them to prevent things from getting out of control.”
Diab has also denied rumors about easing the curfew in Lebanon.
He said: “It is not true that we are about to ease the lockdown. We might even impose more restrictive measures to prevent the virus from spreading by imposing two additional weeks of lockdown on April 26, allowing only few businesses to reopen within the prevention plan.”
According to the daily report issued by the Health Ministry, the number of COVID-19 cases in the country has reached 663, including 5 new cases in the last 24 hours.
The number of cases recorded in Saida and its governorate has reached 12, including four citizens who lived abroad and recently returned to Lebanon.
Three citizens who recently came back from Liberia on a private jet have also tested positive, according to the head of the Department of Health in the Lebanese Southern governorate Dr. Jalal Haidar.
Health Minister Hamad Hassan said: “Random samples collected last week have shown positive signs and we are still conducting tests for validation and confirmation.”
If things remain under control until April 26, the country might witness a gradual shift toward the merging phase between domestic lockdown and herd immunity, he said.
On Thursday, the Chinese Ambassador to Lebanon Wang Kejian handed over 3,000 test kits and 200 thermometers at the Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut as a gift from “the Chinese companies working in Lebanon and the Chinese diaspora.”
Hassan said that the ministry plans to “increase the number of tests across all Lebanon to determine the pandemic’s stage.”
Following a meeting with the Lebanese health minister, Deputy to the Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office of the World Health Organization Dr. Ranna Hajji stressed the importance of “not easing lockdown measures in Lebanon and the need to assess the situation to act accordingly.”
He added: “Respecting the lockdown and the isolation has proven to be most effective when it comes to preventing the virus from spreading.”