Lebanon hit by Eid virus surge

Lebanese troops try to control irate villagers in the northern Wadi Khaled area on the border with Syria after clashes with them left one protester dead and several soldiers wounded. (AN photo)
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Updated 02 August 2020

Lebanon hit by Eid virus surge

  • Record number of daily COVID-19 cases reported
  • Army’s 75th anniversary celebrations canceled

BEIRUT: Lebanon is enduring an Eid holiday surge in COVID-19 infections, with a record 224 new coronavirus cases recorded on Saturday.

The new patients bring the total number of cases in Lebanon to 4,555, and the death toll rose by two to 59.

Among the casualties of the pandemic fallout were celebrations to mark the 75th anniversary of Lebanon’s army. 

A general lockdown reimposed last Thursday in a renewed effort to contain the outbreak forced the military to curtail its plans.

The occasion was marked with little of the fanfare of previous years, and traditional celebrations including a parade and graduation ceremony were abandoned.

Instead President Michel Aoun delivered a televised speech and received a delegation led by army chief Gen. Joseph Aoun.

The president told the army that “surrender is not permitted.” He said: “During my military career, I learned how to walk in a minefield to save the wounded. And today the wounded is the country itself.”

Aoun used his address to criticize opponents of reform to address Lebanon’s worst economic crisis in decades.

“The reforms that are being implemented will not stop until we know the real situation of public finances, and lay our hand on suspicious files in order to find the right solutions and sue the corrupt,” he said.

The president said that an anti-corruption campaign would extend to all government sectors in an effort to win back the trust of the Lebanese people.

He criticized those “who are attacking all salvation attempts in order to score vocal triumphs, especially those who ran away from responsibility in the midst of the crisis.”

Aoun also called on the army “to preserve Lebanese sovereignty against Israeli aggression while abiding by UN Resolution 1701,” pointing out that “we have to defend ourselves, our territories, water and sovereignty, and there will be no complacency.”

The army chief told the president: “Since the start of protests last October, the subsequent economic crisis and the outbreak of the pandemic, the Lebanese army has made every effort to preserve security and stability.”

The military would “remain the guarantor and the core basis for the country’s safety and security,” he said.

On the eve of Army Day, clashes between Lebanese troops and villagers in the northern Wadi Khaled area on the border with Syria left one person dead and several soldiers wounded.

The clashes erupted after the army arrested townsmen for allegedly smuggling sheep from Syria into Lebanon. 

Soldiers clashed with protesters and fired rubber bullets at residents who blocked roads.


Debate rages over Turkey’s surging pandemic numbers

Pedestrians, wearing face masks, walk in a street of Ankara on November 20, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 24 November 2020

Debate rages over Turkey’s surging pandemic numbers

  • 20% of Israeli travelers to Turkey in October tested positive for coronavirus on their return
  • No PCR test is required now in Turkish airports for the passengers entering the country. It is a very big mistake

ANKARA: Unofficial sources have warned that numbers of COVID-19 cases in Turkey are skyrocketing.

The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) estimated that daily COVID-19 cases have risen to more than 47,500, of which about 12,500 are in Istanbul. This would represent a 300 percent increase in November compared to the month before.

According to official data, however, Turkey recorded 5,103 new COVID-19 patients on Nov. 20 — the second highest new daily figure since March — and its highest daily death toll with 141 fatalities.

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu announced that 186 people died from “infectious diseases” in the city on Nov. 22 — more than the official countrywide death toll. (The Turkish health ministry is accused of classifying some COVID-related deaths as "infection-related deaths")

The TTB, whose data drew on figures from 1,270 medics in 76 provinces, claimed that someone in Turkey dies from COVID-19 every 10 minutes. It declared that “they have lost control of the pandemic.”

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca previously admitted that they do not include everyone who tested positive for COVID-19 in the number of daily cases — they only count those who show symptoms. Following this admission Turkey was put on the UK’s quarantine-on-arrival list in early October.

BACKGROUND

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca previously admitted that they do not include everyone who tested positive for COVID-19 in the number of daily cases — they only count those who show symptoms.

Reports drawing on Israeli health ministry data say that 20 percent of Israeli travelers to Turkey in October tested positive for coronavirus on their return home, which experts consider a worryingly high figure.

Everyone arriving in Israel is obliged to self-isolate for 14 days. There is no such an obligation in Turkey.

“The countries which prove successful in managing the pandemic are those that apply strict quarantine rules and rigorously regulate arrivals in the country. But this is not the case in Turkey nowadays,” said Guner Sonmez, a radiologist from Uskudar University in Istanbul.

“Only one case can again trigger a whole chain of contagion and begin a new wave of pandemic. However, no PCR test is required now in Turkish airports for the passengers who enter the country. It is a very big mistake for managing the dynamics of the pandemic.”

Turkey recently re-introduced a partial evening curfew and restrictions on the weekends, although scientists have been urging a full 14-day lockdown.