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Lebanon reduces flights, blames Iran for coronavirus spread

Students wear masks to protect themselves from coronavirus as a precaution in Beirut, Lebanon on 22 February 2020 [Hussam Chbaro/Anadolu Agency]
Students wear masks to protect themselves from coronavirus as a precaution in Beirut, Lebanon on 22 February 2020 [Hussam Chbaro/Anadolu Agency]

Lebanon has officially reduced the number of flights to and from coronavirus infected countries, after some blamed Iran for its first case of the virus.

Lebanese authorities confirmed the first case of coronavirus in the country on Friday, after a 45-year-old woman tested positive after travelling from Qom in Iran, to Beirut.

Several countries in the region including Afghanistan, Kuwait, Bahrain and Iraq have also reported coronavirus cases linked to Iran.

A report from a cabinet meeting, headed by Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab yesterday, said that "unprecedented measures have been introduced at the Rafic Hariri International Airport and at all border crossings. The number of flights from and to countries with the virus outbreak has been reduced."

While, Health Minister Hassan Hamad said: "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."

READ: Israel quarantines more than 200 over coronavirus fears 

However, some Lebanese have called for the suspension of all flights from Iran to Lebanon, over the fears the virus may spread.

Iraqi authorities banned travel to and from Iran on Thursday, while Kuwait suspended flights, and Turkey shut its border with the infected country yesterday.

One Lebanese Twitter user said, "we have enough crises on our plate", while another added "the government must stop all flights coming from Iran. Our health is more important than anything else".

An editorial on the virus from the local MTV station, which is a harsh critic of Iran and the Hezbollah movement it backs, said "as if what Iran is sending to Lebanon and the Lebanese is not enough so it sent us coronavirus". The comment was an apparent reference to the weapons that Tehran sends to the Hezbollah group.

"Thank you, Iran, for allowing a jet carrying people infected with coronavirus to enter our airspace," the editorial added.

Iran: 43 infected with coronavirus; patient zero identified

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