Public Outcry over Lebanon's Failure to Suspend Iran Flights over Coronavirus
Lebanese were up in arms on Saturday demanding a halt to flights from Iran one day after the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in a 45-year-old Lebanese woman who had traveled from Qom in Iran.
“We have made contacts with Iranian authorities who assured that all necessary measures will be taken before a new flight arrives from Iran Monday. The same measures will be taken for all flights arriving from coronavirus infected countries,” said Health Minister Hassan Hamad.
He added: “Protection procedures from the disease will be activated more and more,” noting that the “woman’s health is getting better.”
A medical source at the hospital where the woman is being treated said that she returned from Iran with a high fever, but that her immunity was good and her condition stable.
Hamad also said that two other suspected cases in the southern town of Nabatieh were being “monitored closely.”
Thousands of Lebanese travel to Iran every year to visit Shiite holy sites in Qom and other cities.
The COVID-19 outbreak first appeared in Iran on Wednesday.
The Minister's statement that an Iranian flight bound for Beirut will be allowed to land in Lebanon has sent a wave of anger among Lebanese.
Tehran has now confirmed a total 18 infections and four deaths by the SARS-like virus, which first emerged in China in late December.
On Friday, Iraqi and Kuwaiti authorities were on high alert after banning travel the previous day to and from Iran, where authorities say the death toll from the new coronavirus has hit four.
Lebanese, already grappling with an unprecedented economic crisis, took to social media demanding a similar ban for flights from Iran.
"We have enough crises on our plate," one Lebanese said in a tweet, "We can definitely do without a novel problem whilst one that robs us our health."
“The government must stop all flights coming from Iran. Our health is more important than anything else,” another Lebanese tweeted.
China on Friday raised the death toll to 2,236 -- most of them in the province of Hubei, where the virus was first detected. More than 75,000 have now been infected in China and over 1,100 abroad.