Lebanese officials have extended a general mobilization order until December 31, in an effort to limit the further spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country. The order allows the government to implement preventive measures to help counter the disease. The move comes following a rise in COVID-19 cases, at a time when hospitals in the country, and particularly in Beirut, are under strain in the aftermath of the August 4 Port of Beirut explosion. Only half of the 55 medical facilities within 15 kilometers of the blast are fully operational, and 40 percent have suffered moderate to severe damage. Officials fear that, should cases continue to rise, Lebanon's health care system will be unable to cope.
The Lebanese government previously introduced a two-week nationwide lockdown from Friday, August 21. Non-essential businesses across the country, including markets, gyms, shopping centers, and sports facilities are to be closed until September 3. Restaurants and cafes are limited to offering takeaway and delivery services. An 18:00 to 06:00 (local time) curfew is in effect during the lockdown, although restrictions do not apply to recovery operations in areas affected by the Beirut explosion, and essential workers remain exempt.
Beirut International Airport (BEY) is to remain open during the lockdown period, with travelers required to present evidence of a negative COVID-19 PCR test result on arrival. Those arriving from countries with high COVID-19 infection rates may be required to take a second PCR test and quarantine for 24 to 48 hours in a government-designated hotel whilst awaiting the result.
Public gatherings remain banned and cultural venues closed. Fabric masks covering the mouth and nose must be worn in public places and vehicles (unless traveling alone or exercising).
As of Wednesday, August 26, officials in Lebanon have reported 14,248 COVID-19 cases, with 139 associated deaths. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected over the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Since then, human-to-human transmission of the virus has been confirmed.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Some patients may experience other symptoms such as body pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell, or a rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes. These symptoms (in most cases mild) appear gradually. Generally, most patients (around 80 percent) recover from the disease without being hospitalized.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
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