COVID-19 spreads in Lebanon despite lockdown

People wear protective face masks in Beirut on July 29, 2020 ahead of lockdown measures after a spike in new cases threatened to overwhelm the crisis-hit country's healthcare system. (AFP)
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Updated 02 August 2020

COVID-19 spreads in Lebanon despite lockdown

  • Hospitals overstretched due to crisis

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s confirmed cases of coronavirus have reached 5,000 despite a five-day government lockdown that started last Thursday, as one doctor warned that the health system was “beyond its capacity.”

The Ministry of Health recorded 175 cases on Saturday evening, 155 of whom are residents while 20 were people who had returned from abroad. Two deaths were recorded, raising the death toll to 61. No new recoveries have been recorded, and the total number of people who have recovered from coronavirus remains at 1,761.

The disease spread during Eid Al-Adha at the weekend, reaching villages and towns where no cases had been previously recorded. The Internal Security Forces announced in a communiqué that, on July 31 and Aug. 1, they drew up 555 reports against violators of social distancing and preventive measures. A fresh five-day lockdown is due to start this Thursday.

“Intensive care rooms at Rafik Hariri University Hospital are now full and, if the situation remains the same during the coming days, the hospital will not be able to accommodate the cases requiring intensive care,” Dr. Osman Itani, a pulmonologist and intensive care specialist, told Arab News.

He described the situation as “difficult,” adding: “The number of cases currently exceeds 100 per day, and this is a big problem that cannot be addressed by the health system as it is beyond its capacity. There is a need to restructure hospitals, bearing in mind that hospitals are currently not receiving positive cases, but rather patients just showing symptoms.”

Electricite du Liban (EDL) announced that a number of its staff had contracted COVID-19, and that these employees had come into direct contact with customers at the company’s headquarters. Imad Kreidieh, general director of Ogero Telecom, announced that 17 of Ogero’s staff had tested positive for COVID-19 and that 600 workers had taken a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

Al-Makassed Islamic Charitable Society Hospital is facing an employee shortage due to COVID-19 infections. Those who have contracted the virus have also transmitted the infection to several others, according to one of the hospital’s doctors. Those with the virus have been asked to self-isolate at home.


• The disease spread during Eid Al-Adha at the weekend, reaching villages and towns where no cases had been previously recorded.

• The Ministry of Health recorded 175 cases on Saturday evening.

• Two deaths were recorded, raising the death toll to 61.

Itani said it was difficult to distinguish between people who had coronavirus and those who had other diseases, relaying a recent personal experience at the clinic.

He described how an asthma patient he had been treating for 15 years visited the clinic complaining of shortness of breath, even though she did not leave the house and was committed to anti-coronavirus measures. He said that, upon examining this patient, he learned that she had COVID-19 and that she had contracted it from her children who had visited her at home.

Dr. Firas Abiad is director-general of Rafik Hariri Hospital, which has a section especially for COVID-19 patients. “We are experiencing a health emergency,” he told Arab News. “The problem is not the number, but who needs hospitalization. Of every 100 COVID-19 patients there are 15 who need hospitalization, five of whom will later on need intensive care.”

Itani said that the state of “healthcare confusion” may affect patients who might need hospitalization for a specific symptom but hesitated going to hospital for fear of contracting coronavirus.

“We have seen deaths resulting from heart attacks or strokes, (people) who could have been saved had they come early to the emergency departments,” he added.


Egyptian ministry of irrigation — torrent season begins

A general view of the High Dam in Aswan, Egypt February 19, 2020. (REUTERS
Updated 20 min 44 sec ago

Egyptian ministry of irrigation — torrent season begins

  • Preliminary indications of the flood showed that it is higher than average and that the incoming waters during August and September are so far higher than those of last year

CAIRO: Egypt’s flood season began in August and will continue for three months — and the torrent season is about to begin — Mohamed El-Sebaei, spokesman for the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation, has confirmed.

The Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation continues to prepare for the torrent season and to deal with flooding, which has caused the levels of the Nile to rise significantly over the past few days.

El-Sebaei said the ministry is monitoring the quantities of water that reach Egypt and accumulate in front of the High Dam on a daily basis, pointing out that the Minister of Irrigation, Mohamed Abdel-Ati, has been in Aswan since yesterday to inspect the water facilities of the High Dam.

He said that the torrential season is about to start in the period between autumn and winter, and that the ministry is following up with all torrent, canal and drain networks to ensure that they are ready to receive any volume of water and to preserve private and public property.

The ministry is preparing to cope with the torrents and rains expected to occur during autumn and winter by preparing Lake Nasser, located behind the High Dam, which is one of the most important strategic points in containing the quantities of water coming from the Ethiopian plateau.

The Egyptian River Revenue Regulatory Committee, in its meeting headed by Abdel-Ati, reviewed the situation of the Nile flood, the procedures for monitoring, analyzing and evaluating its condition, and the quantities of water expected to arrive until the end of the current water year 2021-2022.

According to a statement by the Ministry of Irrigation, the rates of rain in the sources of the Nile is expected to start decreasing by the end of September.

Preliminary indications of the flood showed that it is higher than average and that the incoming waters during August and September are so far higher than those of last year. Is still too early to make a final judgment on the type and size of this year’s flood.

Eman El-Sayed, head of the planning sector and head of the forecast center at the Ministry of Irrigation, said the center works to calculate the rates of rain that fall on the upper Nile River countries until it reaches the country on a daily basis. She explained that the latest technology is used to take satellite images and download mathematical models to determine the amount of rain falling and when it will fall.

El-Sayed added that the ministry holds two meetings every week to discuss the developments of the flood season, which have been confirmed more than once to be very high — once during the meeting of the River Revenue Regulatory Committee and the other during the Leadership Committee meeting.

She pointed to the development of three scenarios to deal with a flood. If it comes at a power 10 percent stronger than expected, it will be water drainage as usual. If it comes 50 percent stronger than expected, the excess will be dealt with through drains and waterways and the Toshka spillway will open. If it is stronger than that, the country will declare a state of emergency, she said.