BEIRUT: All means of travel from countries with a large outbreak of the coronavirus will temporarily be stopped, the Public Works Ministry announced in a statement Friday.
The travel restrictions were announced just before the fourth coronavirus case was confirmed in Lebanon Friday evening by a source from Rafik Hariri University Hospital. The patient was identified as a Syrian male.
The new infection occurred through local transmission, a Health Ministry source told The Daily Star. The patient had come in contact with one of the three cases that are currently at Rafik Hariri Univeristy Hospital. The contact happened outside hospital premises. Upon showing symptoms, the patient went to the hospital where he tested positive for the virus.
Public Works Minister Michel Najjar issued the decision to “stop air, sea and land travel to all people coming from countries where the coronavirus is widespread.”
The countries listed are: China, South Korea, Iran and Italy.
“Lebanese citizens and foreigners residing in Lebanon will be exempted from this decision,” the statement said.
Acting Director General of Civil Aviation Fadi El-Hassan told The Daily Star that the decision will go into effect at 12 a.m. Saturday.
According to the statement, travel from other countries with coronavirus outbreaks to Lebanon might also be stopped in the future, and will be listed by the ministerial committee tasked with dealing with the coronavirus.
This comes in accordance with the Cabinet’s decision to restrict flight and travel from and to countries where the coronavirus is widespread.
According to the statement, the General Directorate of Civil Aviation has been instructed to inform all airlines of the decision and their obligation to implement it.
When asked whether Middle East Airlines will have to cancel or refund tickets for flights from restricted countries coming into Beirut, Hassan said “the issue will be solved on behalf of the airline.”
“It is a matter of the coronavirus, this is not something that happens every day,” he said.
Earlier Friday, two flights from Italy arrived in Lebanon. Hassan said that passengers were screened and all the necessary precautions and safety measures had been taken.
Local media reported that around 55 Lebanese students arrived from Iran via Damascus airport Thursday at the Al-Masnaa border crossing station. A team from the Health Ministry inspected the passengers for potential symptoms.
The first three patients infected with coronavirus, or COVID-19, were traveling from Iran, where there is currently a large outbreak. The patients are currently in quarantine at Rafik Hariri University Hospital.