Lebanon health authorities have detected one case of the new COVID-19 strain on a UK flight that arrived in Beirut on December 21, acting Health Minister Hamad Hassan said in a tweet Friday.
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“A case of the new strain of COVID-19 was recorded on [Middle East Airlines] flight number 202 coming from London on December 21,” he said. “We call on travelers arriving from the United Kingdom, especially those on the mentioned flight, to comply with preventative measures.”
Hassan also said the health ministry will follow up with the infected person and anyone who came into contact with the individual. He later told local news outlet Aljadeed that the person who tested positive is a Lebanese national and is in “stable condition.” He added that all of those who arrived on the London flight have been asked to quarantine for 10 days.
While other countries decided to shut their borders to UK travel, Hassan reportedly told Aljadeed that his ministry made the recommendation to suspend flights from the UK, adding that the responsible government body should have made that decision.
A surge in infections is straining Lebanon's healthcare system which has been struggling amid a financial crisis and after a huge port explosion in August smashed up hospitals in Beirut.
Adding to the pressures, the economic meltdown has prompted many doctors to emigrate and raised concerns that subsidies on medicines will be removed.
Lebanon, with an estimated population of 6 million, has reported 1,210 deaths as a result of COVID-19. A total of 165,933 cases have been confirmed as of December 24, according to the health ministry.
Authorities have struggled to enforce coronavirus restrictions in a country where half the nation has slipped into poverty.
New COVID-19 strain
A new variant of the pandemic SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus has been spreading rapidly in Britain and prompting high levels of concern among its European neighbors and countries across the world leading some to implement travel bans to and from the UK.
The strain, referred to by some experts as the B.1.1.7 lineage, is not the first new variant of the pandemic virus to emerge, but is said to be up to 70 percent more transmissible than the previously dominant strain in the United Kingdom.