BEIRUT: Lebanon confirmed the first case of coronavirus in the country Friday, when a woman who arrived from Iran the previous day tested positive, the health minister said during an emergency news conference.
Hamad Hasan said that the patient is a 45-year-old Lebanese woman who arrived in Lebanon Thursday on a flight from Iran. She is currently quarantined at Rafik Hariri University Hospital, he added.
Hasan said that there are two suspected additional cases of the virus in Lebanon currently. Hasan confirmed that the patients are being monitored and have not left their homes.
The two suspected cases were not from the same flight, said Dr. Hassan Mallah, head of the Health Ministry’s department at the airport.
Mallah told The Daily Star that a team from the Health Ministry had been dispatched upon being informed that a plane had arrived from Iran which had announced its first cases of coronavirus Wednesday.
Each individual on the flight was screened upon the plane’s arrival. When it was found that a woman had cold symptoms, Mallah said she was then taken to the hospital where it was confirmed that she had coronavirus.
The plane coming from Iran was a Mahan Air flight that arrived at approximately 7:30 p.m. Thursday. The flight was carrying around 125 passengers, a source from Rafik Hariri International Airport said.
According to Hasan, the ministry is in contact with passengers on board the flight and a team of experts inspected the plane coming from Iran.
When asked whether hospitals were equipped to deal with the potential pressures given the country’s economic crisis, Hasan told The Daily Star “We are ready for any case and to take recommendations and guidelines outlined by the WHO.”
Hasan asked all those who have come from Iran over the last two weeks to remain quarantined for 14 days, which is the length of time it can take for symptoms to appear. He advised people to call the coronavirus hotline, 76-592-699, if symptoms appear which include fever, cough, sore throat and shortness of breath.
No decisions have yet been made to stop incoming flights from Iran. Hasan said that any decision to halt flights coming from countries where is a large number of infections will be made in consultation with the prime minister.
President Michel Aoun in a call to Hasan stressed the need to take necessary precautions at Rafik Hariri International Airport to ensure the safety of arrivals, a presidential statement said following the announcement.
The American University of Beirut Medical Center shared tips via Instagram on how to minimize risks of infection. People can protect themselves by frequently washing their hands with soap and water; avoiding close contact with anyone coughing or sneezing; and by reporting to a doctor if respiratory symptoms develop in a period of 14 days from returning from China or combining in contact with a confirmed case.
The coronavirus, which originated in China, has caused the death of more than 2,200 people.
There are now more than 75,000 confirmed cases globally.
In Iran, 18 cases have been confirmed of whom four have died, and in Israel, one case has so far been confirmed.