BEIRUT: Lebanese authorities have closed schools and universities in the country following the discovery of a fourth coronavirus case and fears at least three other people may be infected.
Lebanon’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education ordered schools and universities to close their doors for one week after a Syrian man developed symptoms associated with the virus.
Dr. Abdul Rahman Bizri, an infectious disease specialist and member of the emergency committee on coronavirus, told Arab News that the Syrian patient contracted the virus from his son who was in Iran and returned by air from the Iranian city of Qom.
“The young Syrian did not report sick and transmitted the virus to his father who showed symptoms and came to the hospital. So we contacted him today and put him into isolation while his father is being treated,” Bizri said.
He added that the government also is investigating two potential cases coming from Italy.
Rafik Hariri University Hospital said dozens of people had been examined in its emergency department, while airline passengers traveling from Iran had been confined to their homes.
The hospital said that 16 people had been quarantined in the hospital on doctors’ advice.
Despite the increasing number of cases, the medical emergency committee described the Ministry of Education and Higher Education’s decision to close schools as “arbitrary.”
Bizri told Arab News that the decision “was taken due to the confusion of the ministries of health and education, and it was taken for political reasons.”
Health teams at the Masnaa border crossing with Syria stepped up precautionary measures and carried out thermal testing on all overland arrivals.
Transport authorities also suspended all flights to Lebanon from countries experiencing an outbreak of coronavirus, except for Lebanese citizens or foreigners living in Lebanon. Two aircraft carrying Lebanese citizens are due to arrive from Iran on Monday and Tuesday.
The American University of Beirut (AUB) ignored the ministry’s request and opened its gates to allow students to complete their final exams.
In a tweet, AUB said that it took the decision “after consulting with experts in infectious diseases.”
Meanwhile, the Saudi Embassy in Lebanon urged Saudis to postpone all unnecessary travel to the country, and said those living in Lebanon should avoid crowded places.
Mosques and other places of worship have used sermons to instruct people on ways to protect themselves against the virus.
The Grand Mufti of Lebanon, Sheikh Abdullatif Darian, said he supported “the decision by Saudi Arabia to temporarily suspend entry into its territories to do Umrah and visit the Prophet’s Mosque in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.”
The grand mufti praised the “precautionary measures taken by the Kingdom, within the framework of Islamic Shariah, and its keenness on the safety of pilgrims and visitors of Allah coming from all over the world, and on protecting health security to contain the virus.”