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COVID-19 Strikes Syrian Communities in Lebanon’s Bekaa

COVID-19 Strikes Syrian Communities in Lebanon’s Bekaa

Wednesday, 27 May, 2020 - 09:30
Lebanese soldiers standing guard in the downtown district of the capital Beirut wear protective masks against the coronavirus, on March 15, 2020. (AFP)
Beirut - Paula Astih

Coronavirus cases in Lebanon continued to rise, with 21 new infections recorded on Tuesday, 15 of which were among residents and six among expatriates, with the total number of cases reaching 1,140.

The virus struck a community of displaced Syrians in the eastern Qaa region, where 13 people tested positive on Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases among them to 16.

Lisa Abou Khaled, spokeswoman for the UNHCR in Lebanon, explained that since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Lebanon, the commission has been following up on the conditions of the displaced Syrians with the Lebanese authorities, making field visits and raising awareness among crowded communities and distributing sanitary products.

In a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat, Abou Khaled said that within days, the commission will launch, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health, an initiative to conduct tests for thousands of displaced Syrians across Lebanon.

In remarks on Tuesday, Minister of Health Hamad Hassan described the situation as “good”, adding that the country “was heading systematically to the resumption of normal life.” He said he hoped the citizens would abide by the preventive measures to avoid a second wave.

“There were some outbreaks in some areas, but the results of the containment will appear in coming days,” he noted.

While Hassan said the government was adopting the strategy of “soft herd immunity,” former Health Minister Ghassan Hasbani warned that any such approach must be implemented within an integrated plan that includes more testing and stricter controls.

“Announcing victory over the epidemic is a premature move, especially since more stringent measures had to be taken in dealing with the repatriated citizens, some of whom contributed to the spread of the virus in their villages and towns,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.

For his part, Dr. Gebran Qarnaouni, a specialist in disaster management and medicine, spoke of three factors that would push Lebanon towards herd immunity.

“First, the number of deaths that remain limited due to our genetic constitution that is different from Europeans,” he said, adding that the second factor was the low commitment to home isolation, while the third was the economic situation, which can no longer tolerate further closure and strict measures.

“We are now aware that we will live with the virus until 2022, and therefore, we must open all facilities provided that the elderly and the sick will take the necessary precautions and we must all continue to wear masks in public places,” Qarnaouni underlined.

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