Coronavirus | Lebanon tightens security around refugee camp

Lebanon, a tiny country of 5 million people, is home to more than one million Syrian refugees and other Syrians who are residents.

April 24, 2020 09:57 pm | Updated December 03, 2021 06:43 am IST - Baalbek (Lebanon):

Lebanese Health Minister Hamad Hassan (3rd left) and the Palestinian ambassador to Lebanon, visit the Wavel refugee camp (also known as the Jalil camp) in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley, on April 24, 2020.

Lebanese Health Minister Hamad Hassan (3rd left) and the Palestinian ambassador to Lebanon, visit the Wavel refugee camp (also known as the Jalil camp) in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley, on April 24, 2020.

Authorities closed all entrances to a Palestinian refugee camp in eastern Lebanon on Friday after four more people tested positive for the coronavirus ( COVID-19 ), heightening concerns the virus could further spread among its overcrowded population.

 

The four infected with coronavirus are relatives of a woman who tested positive earlier this week and are isolating inside their home, according to a statement from the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees.

It said they were so far not in need of hospitalisation. The Palestinian woman who was taken to a hospital in Beirut this week became the first refugee living in a camp in Lebanon to contract the virus, a finding that triggered a spate of testing in the camp. The five confirmed cases are residents of the Wavel camp in the city of Baalbek, known locally as the Jalil, or Galilee camp.

Lebanon set for debt default

Lebanon, a tiny country of 5 million people, is home to more than one million Syrian refugees and other Syrians who are residents. It is also host to tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees and their descendants, most of them living in squalid camps with no access to public services, with limited employment opportunities and no rights to ownership.

On Friday, Palestinian fighters in charge of the camp security wore face masks as they patrolled the narrow streets and alleys of the camp with an estimated population of up to 3,000. Posters of the late Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Palestinian flags were plastered on the camp walls.

Camp residents hunkered down at home after being asked to stay indoors, while paramedics in protective suits spraying down the few vehicles that were permitted to enter with disinfectant and took people’s temperatures.

Lack of testing has stoked fears among millions of displaced people around the world packed into refugee camps and informal settlements.

Most people who become infected experience mild to moderate symptoms. But the virus can cause severe illness and lead to death, particularly among older people and those with underlying health problems. It is highly contagious and can be spread by those who appear healthy.

Explained | What is happening in Lebanon?

Health Minister Hamad Hassan told reporters after visiting a clinic at the camp that Lebanese authorities were working together with the U.N. and other agencies to avoid an outbreak in the coming days.

Lebanon has recorded 22 deaths from among nearly 700 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. The head of Lebanon’s main hospital overseeing COVID-19 patients, Firass Abiad, tweeted that apart from the four relatives of the Palestinian woman, all other tests conducted in the camp turned out negative.

Coronavirus | Global death toll tops 170,000

Also on Wednesday, Iran reported 93 more deaths from the virus, with the death toll in the country now reaching 5,574, out of more than 88,000 confirmed cases. Iran is the hardest hit country in the Mideast and one of the world’s worst outbreaks of the coronavirus.

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