Lebanon to impose two-week coronavirus lockdown

A deserted bridge on the eastern outskirts of the Lebanese capital Beirut, during a lockdown imposed by the authorities due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. (AFP/File)
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Updated 28 July 2020

Lebanon to impose two-week coronavirus lockdown

  • Shutdown includes Eid Al-Adha holiday

BEIRUT: Lebanon is imposing a two-week coronavirus lockdown starting July 30, the country’s health minister said, as he slammed the “lack of community discipline and disregard” for all preventive measures and warned that the outbreak was taking a “dangerous turn.”

The number of confirmed cases on Monday reached 135 and Saturday’s cases were the highest since February at 175.

“The number is very large and indicates the seriousness of this stage,” said Health Minister Hamad Hassan, following a meeting of a COVID-19 ministerial committee headed by Prime Minister Hassan Diab.

He added that what was happening was another indication of the “rapid spread” of the virus within one week. “The infected person is now spreading the infection to 3 people.” 

The total lockdown of the country is from July 30 to August 3 and from August 6 until August 10, including the days of Eid Al-Adha. It is a measure intended to relieve pressure on hospitals that have started to get overcrowded. However, the final decision will be taken by the Council of Ministers that will meet Tuesday.

Hassan warned that the community outbreak of the disease was beginning to take a “dangerous turn” and he regretted “the lack of community discipline and disregard for all preventive measures imposed on people.”

Fears of COVID-19 have overtaken the country’s many financial and economic concerns, with politicians, parliament officials, ministry and court staff taking polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests on Monday and entire towns shutting down.

Although the ministerial committee did not recommend closing Beirut International Airport, it decided that nobody would be allowed into Lebanon from the start of August without a negative PCR test from the departure country.

"Passengers will have to stay in quarantine for two days at their own expense in special centers, pending the results of the second PCR test at the airport,” Hassan said. “Those who have the logistical capacity for quarantine will not have to go to these centers.” 

Hassan requested hospitals to postpone receiving cold medical cases to later appointments because there were 222 cases within the health sector among doctors, nurses and employees. He called on hospitals to “completely prevent visits to patients or make them minimal.”

Lawyers in the Bar Association had to take PCR tests after one of their number was found to have the disease. Employees and judges at the Palace of Justice in Beirut were tested and it was decided to suspend trial sessions for four days.

Fear of contracting the virus has also reached politicians. The minister of defense, Zeina Aker, announced that her daughter had been infected with the virus. Parliament closed on Monday to carry out PCR tests for MPs who had mixed with George Aqis, including Speaker Nabih Berri. Aqis’ first test was positive but the second was negative.

The need for hundreds of Syrian workers to take PCR tests before entering Syrian territory has led to overcrowding in Lebanese government hospitals, with long lines of people waiting to be seen at authorized laboratories for testing.

“There was great pressure on the 50 laboratories,” Hassan said. “The number of tests increased to between seven and eight thousand daily, which caused a delay in announcing the results and affected the control of positive cases.”

Seventeen members of the Lebanese Red Cross contracted the virus from an infected volunteer who had moved one of his relatives to hospital. The relative suffered from burns at home and it was found out that he had COVID-19.


Erdogan: Turkey resumes energy exploration in east Mediterranean

Updated 2 min 21 sec ago

Erdogan: Turkey resumes energy exploration in east Mediterranean

  • Turkey and Greece have long been at loggerheads over overlapping claims for hydrocarbon resources
ISTANBUL: President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that Turkey had resumed energy exploration work in the eastern Mediterranean as Greece had not kept its promises regarding such activities in the region.
NATO members Turkey and Greece have long been at loggerheads over overlapping claims for hydrocarbon resources and tensions flared up last month, prompting German Chancellor Angela Merkel to hold talks with the country’s leaders to ease tensions.
“We have started drilling work again,” Erdogan told reporters after participating in Friday prayers at the Hagia Sophia mosque. “We don’t feel obliged to talk with those who do not have rights in maritime jurisdiction zones.”
He said Turkey’s Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa, a seismic survey vessel, had been sent to the region to carry out its duties. The ship moved into waters off Cyprus in late July and remains in that region.
Erdogan made the comments when asked about an accord signed by Egypt and Greece on Thursday designating an exclusive economic zone between the two nations in the east Mediterranean.
Diplomats in Greece said their agreement nullified an accord reached last year between Turkey and the internationally recognized government of Libya.
However, Erdogan said the Egypt-Greece accord was of no value and that Turkey would sustain its agreement with Libya “decisively.” The Turkish Foreign Ministry has said the Egypt-Greece zone falls in the area of Turkey’s continental shelf.
Turkey and Greece are also at odds over a range of issues from flights over each other’s territory in the Aegean Sea to ethnically divided Cyprus.