Lebanon confirms 3 more virus deaths, 177 new cases

Of the new cases, 159 were detected among the local population and 18 among recent travelers

  
People wearing protective face masks walk along a street, as face masks become compulsory in public as part of the latest measures by authorities to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Beirut, Lebanon May 29, 2020.

People wearing protective face masks walk along a street, as face masks become compulsory in public as part of the latest measures by authorities to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Beirut, Lebanon May 29, 2020.

REUTERS/Aziz Taher

BEIRUT: Lebanon confirmed three deaths and 177 new coronavirus cases Monday, raising the total number to 5,062, as health minister called on ministries to step up monitoring the implementation of measures to contain the pandemic.

Of the new cases, 159 were detected among the local population and 18 among recent travelers. There have been 65 deaths due to coronavirus complications so far.

Cases were detected among 6,009 PCR tests administered in the last 24 hours.

This news comes as Lebanon is set to briefly reopen for two days before going back into another five-day lockdown to stem the spread of the illness. Restaurants, cafes, bars and banks will be permitted to reopen Tuesday and Wednesday before shutting once again Thursday.

Lebanon has witnessed a concerning surge since the country reopened its airport just over a month ago, in a bid to resuscitate the country’s collapsing economy. A total of 2,777 cases were recorded in July – a figure that is greater than the total number of cases recorded in the five previous months combined.

More worryingly, chronically underfunded public hospitals like Rafik Hariri University Hospital are only days away from being overwhelmed. Also private hospitals, which account for 86 percent of Lebanon’s health care system, are also teetering on the verge of collapse.

A Lebanese nurse passed away Monday morning after contracting the virus, making her the second medical worker in the country to die during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health Minister Hamad Hasan said she was suffering from other health conditions. "We lost her as we lost the martyrs of duty, who died in the face of coronavirus," he told a news conference.

Meanwhile, Hasan called on other ministries to step up their monitoring of the lockdown, as many people have not taken the COVID-19 prevention measures seriously.

“We ask relevant ministries to take the level of follow-ups higher,” Hasan said. The Interior Ministry through the Internal Security Forces is responsible of monitoring the lockdown.

A 15-day full lockdown could be imposed, based on the evaluation to be made of the current lockdown period, which ends Aug. 10, and a civil and health emergency would be announced that will require people to stay at home, Hasan warned.

The health minister also said it is necessary to re-evaluate the airport and decrease the number of incoming travelers to Lebanon, which will in turn take some burden off from laboratories administering PCR tests.

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