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Lebanon halts entry for travellers from coronavirus hubs

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]

In a measure intended to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Lebanon has banned all entry to travellers from countries with large outbreaks of the illness, the National News Agency (NNA) reported today.

The measure will restrict entries via land, air and sea, to travellers from China, Iran, South Korea and Italy. Though Lebanese citizens and foreigners who live in the country are set to be excluded from the ban.

Prior to the announcement, Health Minister Hamad Hassan said, during a visit to Baalbek Government Hospital, that “Lebanon is strengthening measures on the border to confront the virus”.

Adding that steps taken at Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport were “highly praised by international sides”.

Hamad admitted that “some mishaps” had occurred, in reference to the country’s three cases, but said that these mistakes “must not label the whole process as negative”.

The Lebanese Embassy in Iran has called nationals to take “caution” against the risk of infection, and asked citizens “to follow the medical and health instructions announced by the Iranian Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation”.

READ: Lebanon asks WHO for additional assistance to confront coronavirus

The embassy also asked nationals to return to Lebanon “as soon as possible” and added that “Lebanese in Iran who wish to return back home… [should] book tickets on the next two flights directly from Tehran to Beirut scheduled on March 2 and 4”.

The move comes after the country’s third case of coronavirus was confirmed yesterday.

All three cases have been linked to a flight from Iran, after a 45-year-old woman tested positive on 21 February after returning from Qom in Iran, to Beirut, the previous day.

The Lebanese government held an emergency meeting on the threat of coronavirus on Tuesday, as the number of cases in the Middle East ballooned, agreeing a reduction in flights, and suspension of religious pilgrimages.

READ: Now is the time for unity in the Middle East as coronavirus fears grip the region

Protests later erupted calling for the government to adopt more stringent measures, which have been used internationally to prevent the spread of the disease.

While Lebanese in the southern town of Nabatieh today demanded the closure of local schools for a month in order to protect their children’s health.

Coronavirus cases have been reported in ten countries across the Middle East, with the largest outbreak of 388 confirmed infections and 34 deaths in Iran.

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