Lebanese government plans to repatriate citizens from the US

Medical staff take a selfie at a music concert held in support of hospital staff and patients at a major hospital in Beirut amid the coronavirus pandemic. (AFP)
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Updated 17 April 2020

Lebanese government plans to repatriate citizens from the US

  • No passenger flights by MEA to US since 1985
  • Prime minister denies rumors about easing the curfew

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.”

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

Updated 14 min 29 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)

10:24 - Kuwait has confirmed 887 coronavirus cases and the recovery of 50 percent of total infected people.

10:22 - UAE has recorded 596 coronavirus cases and 388 recoveries.

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.
06:51 – The global coronavirus death toll has topped 375,000, according to AFP tally.

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.