The Lebanese government has launched a new phase of repatriating expatriates, creating greater challenges in the fight against the coronavirus outbreak.
The Ministry of Health registered 33 new cases of COVID-19 among repatriated nationals in the past 48 hours, and only one local infection, raising the total number to 784 since the first reported case in February.
“We have started a new stage in the return of expatriates,” Health Minister Hamad Hassan said, noting that this step “constitutes a challenge and requires us to take measures back from scratch.”
He stressed, however, that the flights would not be stopped.
He explained that the ministry counted on the “expatriates’ conscience to protect their communities, and to adhere to the measures taken by the ministry and the relevant authorities.”
The arrivals increased the numbers of infections significantly. Twenty-five persons coming from Nigeria tested positive for the virus and were transferred upon arrival to Rafik Hariri Hospital. Out of this number, the Disaster Management Unit in Tyre, in South Lebanon, recorded 12 confirmed cases, raising the number of infections in the city to 15, four of whom have recovered.
A number of Lebanese nationals have also arrived from Syria, where they were stranded due to the lockdown and the closure of land borders.
The National News Agency (NNA) reported that strict measures were taken at al-Abboudieh border crossing, where several buses were brought in to secure the transportation of the returning Lebanese to the dedicated quarantine centers, pending the results of their PCR tests.
The Ministry of Health later announced, in a statement, that all the tests conducted for expats arriving through al-Masnaa and al-Abboudieh crossings came negative.