Lebanon registers sharp rise in number of COVID-19 cases

Lebanon registers sharp rise in number of COVID-19 cases
A worker disinfects a room where patients undergo tests for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut, Lebanon. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 08 October 2020

Lebanon registers sharp rise in number of COVID-19 cases

Lebanon registers sharp rise in number of COVID-19 cases
  • The Lebanese authorities said they would start a phased reopening of schools next Monday, admitting only senior students at this stage
  • UNRWA spokesperson Hoda Samra warned that there was a coronavirus outbreak in Palestinian refugee camps

BEIRUT: Lebanon recorded the highest number of COVID-19 cases since February on Wednesday. The 1,459 new cases brought the total to more than 48,000, while the number of deaths has risen by nine to 433.
Among the cases registered on Wednesday was former Lebanese Justice Minister Gen. Ashraf Rifi, who announced a week ago that his son had contracted the virus.
Medical staff are concerned about a number of hospitals in Beirut reaching their maximum capacity, especially in intensive care units (ICUs).
UNRWA spokesperson Hoda Samra warned that there was a coronavirus outbreak in Palestinian refugee camps. She said that the camps were overcrowded, and people were not committing to staying at home or following preventive measures.
The Lebanese authorities said they would start a phased reopening of schools next Monday, admitting only senior students at this stage.
Hilda El-Khoury, director of the counseling and guidance department at the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, said: “Initially, 60,000 students out of the 120,000 currently enrolled in intermediate and high schools will be returning to schools in stages. There are students, however, who will not return within the next two weeks because the areas where they live are in lockdown due to the spread of COVID-19.”
The Committee to Oversee the COVID-19 Preparedness and Response in Lebanon recommended the closure of all nightclubs, discotheques, and bars until further notice. The committee also required identifying the towns with a high daily infection rate on a weekly basis so as to include them in the closure decision.
The committee’s decisions have been criticized by the Policy Rationalization Center of the Faculty of Health Sciences at the American University of Beirut (AUB). The center described the current state of the COVID-19 outbreak in Lebanon as “terrifying, with 10 percent of all PCR tests returning positive results.” Moreover, “80 percent of the ICU beds designated for Covid-19 cases are full, some towns have been quarantined, complying with the preventive measures is history, and there is no clear assessment of the readiness of schools in this context. This means that the current situation clearly does not allow for the reopening of schools.”
The center said: “The best option now is to pursue remote education,” stressing that “the timing for reopening schools cannot be determined by the number of days, but through a series of health conditions that must be met, such as monitoring the rate of the virus transmission in the community and implementing a strict monitoring system based on tests, tracing people in contact with the cases, isolating the cases, and the extent to which a school is willing and capable of implementing and maintaining the preventive measures.”
It said that 170 educational institutions in Beirut were damaged in the Aug. 4 port blast, and this has taken a toll on continuing the education of 70,000 students and the lives of 7,600 teachers.
While medical professionals are busy fighting this pandemic, the financial crisis facing Lebanon has caused the Banque du Liban to remove subsidies on sanitation materials, including those used in hospitals. Lebanon may also reduce subsidies on medicines, fuel, and wheat due to the shortage of foreign exchange reserves.
Suleiman Haroun, head of the Syndicate of Private Hospitals, warned against this move. He said: “Hospitals will have to make patients pay the difference in cost.”