Lebanon’s health minister said on Tuesday hospitals were ready to deal with any further spread of the novel coronavirus in the country, where 13 cases have been recorded with no deaths.
Hamad Hassan said the cases had all either returned from an affected country or were transmitted through “close contact” with a family member or neighbor - not “local transmission.”
All 13 people suffering from the COVID-19 illness are being treated at Beirut’s Rafic Hariri state hospital, where 140 beds have been designated to isolate and monitor suspected cases, he added.
Hassan said measures had also been taken beyond Beirut, naming eight cities across the country where hospital wards had been put aside as Lebanon works to contain the virus nationwide.
“We have designated 20 to 40 beds in each facility to follow any unexpected developments as part of a precautionary plan,” he said.
They include a monitoring area for patients suspected of having caught the coronavirus along with one or two quarantine units, he said.
In what he described as a “positive sign,” Hassan said the country’s first case, a 45-year-old woman who had tested positive for the virus after visiting Qom in virus-hit Iran, had now tested negative.
“A second laboratory test will be conducted tomorrow, and she will be discharged and sent home if the negative result is confirmed,” his ministry said earlier in a statement.
That showed that “there’s no need for hysterical panic,” Hassan said.
On Friday, Lebanon said it would deny entry to non-resident foreigners arriving from China, South Korea, Iran and Italy.
Schools, universities and other educational institutions have been closed until March 8.
Globally, more than 92,000 people have been infected and more than 3,100 killed since the virus first emerged in China’s Hubei province late last year.
Of those, the coronavirus has claimed 77 lives in Iran, where thousands of Lebanese Shiite Muslims head each year to visit religious shrines.