Roundup: Lebanon's early relaxation of anti-pandemic measures could hamper fight against COVID-19: experts

Source: Xinhua| 2020-07-17 03:50:49|Editor: huaxia

by Dana Halawi

BEIRUT, July 16 (Xinhua) -- Lebanon's rush to ease the anti-pandemic measures to avoid an economic collapse has led to a resurgence in COVID-19 and could hamper the efforts to curb its spread, Lebanese experts said.

Firas Abiad, director general of Rafic Hariri University Hospital (RHUH), told Xinhua that Lebanon has lately witnessed a daily increase in the number of COVID-19 infections due to several factors including the re-opening of the country to avoid further economic collapse.

"The economic collapse prompted Lebanese authorities to re-open the airport and resume economic activities in the country. This has contributed to an increase in the number of infections," Abiad told Xinhua in an interview.

Indeed, Lebanon has been witnessing a remarkable resurgence of COVID-19 pandemic for the past few days, as the tally of confirmed cases reached 2,599 so far while the death toll climbed to 40.

Abiad said that the authorities would have been capable of keeping the country closed for longer time to guarantee a better and more successful fight against the virus.

Moreover, the country would have been more at ease in importing the needed medical equipment for a more effective fight against COVID-19.

"It is worth noting that Lebanon imports 90 percent of its needed medical equipment," he said.

Lebanon has been suffering for the past few months from a shortage in U.S. dollars, prompting the banks to impose unofficial controls on withdrawal of dollars.

Despite the difficulties and challenges facing Lebanon, the country was able to restrict the spread of the virus to some extent.

"We closed the airport at the right time and we took measures that have resulted in low number of infections at the beginning of the virus' outbreak; but unfortunately, the economic situation forced us to open the country and bear the risk of a surge in infections all over again," Abiad said.

Lebanon has been fighting the COVID-19 pandemic since Feb. 21.

The country has received several donations from different countries for the fight against COVID-19, including China.

"We have received support from China which helped Lebanon in continuing their testing for patients and providing medical staff with personal protective equipment," Abiad said.

Abiad expected the Lebanese government to witness more challenges in this area by having to decide on whether to reinforce mobilization measures or maintain the current situation to prevent a further rise in infections.

Abiad urged Lebanese citizens to remain cautious by taking proper precautionary measures, while noting that the hospitals are doing their best to raise the awareness among the public against the spread of the virus.

Hussein Kataya, head of the Nursing Department at RHUH, told Xinhua that the nurses at the hospital were very well trained to treat the COVID-19 patients and their belongings to prevent the virus' spread.

He noted that there is a specialized team at the hospital which is responsible of following up and supervising the nurses' work.

Kataya added that only one of their colleagues was infected with the virus, outside the hospital, and all other nurses in the hospital tested negative.

Lebanese Health Minister Hamad hassan announced on Thursday that a free mobile application will be launched within one week, which will inform people about the others who have contacts with the infected patients.

Dubbed "Together against Corona," the application aims to convey a message to the public that the COVID-19 pandemic is not yet over and further precaution must be taken to stem its spread. Enditem