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Abiad says ready to shut down country if COVID-19 spread accelerates


Abiad says ready to shut down country if COVID-19 spread accelerates

Revellers celebrate New Year in Beirut. (Credit: Anwar Amro/AFP)

BEIRUT — Health Minister Firass Abiad said Sunday he is "ready to make the decision to close the country if the speed of the spread of the coronavirus accelerates," a proposal so far rejected by the Lebanese authorities in view of the of its heavy consequences in a country in the midst of economic collapse.

Here's what we know: 

    • Speaking during a radio interivew, Abiad expressed regret that the application of the preventive measures taken by the ministry in December "did not prove sufficient" on the ground during the holiday season to prevent a resurgence of the virus. 

    • "The decision to close the country is being carefully studied based on the figures and data available, and we are reflecting on the question of the duration of such a closure, especially since the situation in Lebanon cannot support it," said the minister added during the interview. "But if the speed of spread of the virus accelerates, we are ready to take the decision [to close]," he added. 

    • In mid-December, the Interior Ministry imposed a curfew from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. for unvaccinated people, while tourist establishments were called upon to limit their capacity to 50 percent and to verify customers' vaccination certificates or negative PCR result within the previous 48 hours. 

    • Abiad again affirmed that "the sudden increase in contamination is an indication of the spread of the Omicron variant, which affects the upper part of the respiratory system" and which has "symptoms similar to those of the flu." He estimated that "the new wave will be more important in terms of the number of contaminations, but it will end faster," adding that efforts are underway to "increase the capacity of hospitals."

    • The private hospitals syndicate had launched, almost two weeks ago, a new cry of alarm in the face of the health situation in the country, and warned of an "inevitable catastrophe in the days to come" as they feared being unable to ensure oxygen, medication and medical equipment to treat patients with COVID-19.

    • For his part, the president of the parliamentary health committee, Assem Araji, estimated Sunday that "an increase in the number of contaminations is expected in Lebanon from the next two days, due to contacts which largely took place on Friday and Saturday," during the New Year celebrations. In a radio interview, he said that a total closure would be determined "according to the evolution of the pandemic."

    • "We do not want to move towards a closure of the country, but anything is possible, Araji added. Araji finally stressed that "we are in a dangerous situation, due to the lack of beds in hospitals and the exodus of medical personnel." He called on the population to be cautious. 


BEIRUT — Health Minister Firass Abiad said Sunday he is "ready to make the decision to close the country if the speed of the spread of the coronavirus accelerates," a proposal so far rejected by the Lebanese authorities in view of the of its heavy consequences in a country in the midst of economic collapse.Here's what we know:     • Speaking during a radio interivew, Abiad...