BEIRUT: The number of people infected with the delta variant of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Lebanon has risen to 9 in the past two days. The caretaker government’s minister of health, Hamad Hassan, said on Saturday the cases “came from abroad,” adding: “The ministry’s efforts are focused on containing these infections.”
Hassan urged all Lebanese to get vaccinated, appealing to them to “maintain what Lebanon has achieved by adhering to preventive measures, which are the duty of all.”
Lebanon has witnessed a remarkable decline in the number of daily COVID-19 infections in the past few weeks, and has seen its travel status altered by several European countries.
On Friday, the latest daily figure of people infected with COVID-19 was 210, including 147 local cases, with the rest coming from abroad. Only two deaths were recorded, with just 15 people placed on ventilators.
However, according to Ministry of Health statistics, the number of Lebanese people registered on the country’s vaccination platform is just 27 percent. The percentage of those who have received a first dose reached 20.5 percent, while those who received the second dose is currently 10.4 percent.
Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut, meanwhile, is witnessing unprecedented numbers of Lebanese returning from abroad to spend their summer vacation at home, which prompted the authorities to take strict measures to reduce the transmission of the virus.
The medical community warned continued influx of people mixed with insufficient screening could lead to a rise in cases.
Dr. Eid Azar, a specialist in infectious diseases, said: “There is a similarity (in situations) between June 2020 and June 2021. People are coming to spend summer (vacations) after a long period.
“The delta variant has begun to infiltrate Lebanon, and it is unacceptable that surveillance remains unprofessional.”
The director of the Hariri Governmental University Hospital, Dr. Firas Al-Abyad, said: “Lebanon is currently implementing an open-door policy in an attempt to bring in hard currency.”
Dr. Abdul Rahman Bizri, head of the National Committee for the Administration of the Coronavirus Vaccine, told Arab News: “It was the American University of Beirut laboratory that revealed the arrival of the delta variant in the country.
“Earlier infections might have arrived before but we did not know about them, which means that the matter will remain doubtful until we are sure of the extent of the spread of the delta variant. This variant is a natural mutation of the virus.”
Bizri added: “We are targeting young people who have registered on the platform. There are a million registered citizens and we have not yet targeted them. The vaccines that we give are sufficient to prevent the new variant.”Assem Araji MP, who heads Lebanon’s parliamentary health committee, said: “This variant has been observed in 100 countries, and Lebanon is among them. It is required to adhere to preventive measures, speed up the pace of the vaccination campaign, regulate the arrivals into Lebanon, and adhere to home quarantine until PCR test results arrive. These are essential to protect the country.”
Al-Abyad also expressed his concern about the situation. He told Arab News: “The number of hospital admissions has started increasing. Yesterday (Friday), the rate of positive tests at Hariri Governmental University Hospital was 4 percent, the highest rate in several weeks. Two new cases were recorded among healthcare workers who had been fully vaccinated.”
Al-Abyad pointed out that “most of the new cases diagnosed in the hospital are among young people who did not receive the vaccine.”
He warned that “increased activities will lead to a greater spread of the infection. When the numbers start to rise, it will be too late to regain control, and vaccines alone will not save us.”
Last February, Lebanon began vaccinating its population, and is still targeting individuals over 50 years of age, by holding marathon inoculations during weekends targeting remote areas where people have not registered to receive the vaccine.