Lebanon sees record COVID-19 cases following Beirut explosion


Lebanon saw a record number of new coronavirus infections last week — a week after the Beirut port explosion ravaged the capital city, killing at least 172 people and injuring thousands.

The country reported 309 new cases — in addition to seven new deaths — on Monday, data from its Ministry of Public Health shows.

On Tuesday, that number slightly dipped to 292 new cases, and rose again on Wednesday to 298 cases, the data indicates.

Overall, by Thursday night local time, the country had tallied 7,711 coronavirus cases and 92 deaths.

Even before the Aug. 4 blast, the nation had seen a surge in infections, but the displacement of so many people following the explosion risks speeding up the spread, World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jarasevic said at a United Nations briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.

Some 300,000 people were left without habitable housing. Hospitals grappled with damage and injured staff, as the wounded flooded in for care.

“The emergency in Beirut has caused many COVID-19 precautionary measures to be relaxed, raising the prospects of even higher transmission rates and a large caseload in coming weeks,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a Monday report.

The report indicated that at least 15 medical facilities, including three major hospitals, were either partially or severely damaged as a result of the blast.

An assessment of 55 primary health care centers in the capital revealed that only 47 percent could still provide full routine services.

Back on Aug. 7, the WHO issued an appeal for $15 million to cover emergency health needs in the country, whose health care sector had been suffering financially for some time.

“COVID-19 had already drained the health sector even before last week’s explosion, but now — in the aftermath of this disaster — it is causing even more suffering. In the past week, we’ve seen the number of COVID-19 cases jump up by over a third, putting even more pressure on an already overwhelmed health system,” Matias Meier, country director for the International Rescue Committee in Lebanon, told Newsweek in an email.

“The clean-up operation is vast, the hospitals that remain open are almost full, and those that can still operate are in desperate need of more equipment. One week on from the blast, the needs in Beirut are greater than ever.”

With Post wires


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