Lebanon to review expat return process: Hasan

Lebanon witnessed Thursday its largest one-day increase in COVID-19 cases, with 63 people confirmed to have caught the disease in the prior 24 hours.

  
Lebanese people, who were stranded abroad by coronavirus lockdowns, are pictured wearing face masks and gloves as they hold their luggage upon arrival at Beirut's international airport, Lebanon April 5, 2020.

Lebanese people, who were stranded abroad by coronavirus lockdowns, are pictured wearing face masks and gloves as they hold their luggage upon arrival at Beirut's international airport, Lebanon April 5, 2020.

Reuters/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Health Minister Hamad Hasan said Friday that the fate of a new round of expat return flights will be determined in an impact assessment of the latest batch of repatriations.

“We will wait until the end of [expat repatriation] flights Sunday to conduct an assessment over a period of 14 days for each stage of the expat returns,” Hasan told local newspaper Al Joumhouria.

Lebanon witnessed Thursday its largest one-day increase in COVID-19 cases, with 63 people confirmed to have caught the disease in the prior 24 hours. The second largest single day spike in cases was March 20, when 53 new cases were registered.

Information Minister Manal Abdel-Samad said Thursday that expat return flights were the “main reason for the increase of infections,” which now total 10,24 in Lebanon.

Around 10,000 expats have returned to Lebanon since the country implemented wide-reaching COVID-19 containment measures March 15. A further 10,000 people have registered with the Foreign Ministry to be repatriated.

There have been numerous reports of returned nationals disregarding self-quarantine and passing their infection onto others through their recklessness.

“People must abide [by the containment measures] in order to limit the increase in infections. The elderly must isolate themselves so that the death rate does not rise. Those without symptoms must also commit to home quarantine so that the infection is not transmitted to family members,” Hasan told Al Joumhouria Friday.

Hasan also said that communal prayers, which are allowed in mosques Fridays and in Churches Sundays, should be canceled if believers do not distance themselves while in these places of worship.

“If it were up to the political authorities we would be fearful of worshippers’ health, and with all respect to the religious authorities, we would cancel prayers unless there was a commitment to safe spacing between worshippers,” Hasan said. “This matter is for the interior minister. If there is a high density [of people worshipping] in spite of the general mobilization, then it will be necessary to prevent prayers.”

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