The Lebanese government announced a state of emergency on Monday, March 16, due to the ongoing international outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19). As of Wednesday, March 18, until at least Sunday, March 29, all individuals traveling to Lebanon via air, land, and sea ports will be denied entry to the country. Exceptions will only be made for diplomats, staff working for international institutions, and staff from the UNIFIL mission. Individuals in Lebanon are urged to stay at home and limit all non-essential movement.
The Committee for the Follow-Up of Anti-Coronavirus Preventive Measures and Actions also previously activated several measures domestically. These include:
- Establishing a rotational shift for public sector employees with the exception of medical and military staff.
- Bans on public gatherings in both public and private spaces; the closure of cafés, restaurants, bars, public parks, tourist sites, and shopping centers with the exception of grocery stores, among others.
- Reducing religious gatherings.
As of Tuesday, March 17, 120 cases have been confirmed in Lebanon, including four associated deaths. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Human-to-human and patient-to-medical staff transmission of the virus have been confirmed. Many of the associated fatalities have been due to pneumonia caused by the virus.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) labelled the outbreak as pandemic.
Pneumonia symptoms include dry cough, chest pain, fever, and labored breathing. Pneumonia can be contagious and can be transmitted from human to human. The influenza virus, or the flu, is a common cause of viral pneumonia.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly, and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone non-essential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the general risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the virus.