SAT 15 - 8 - 2020
Date: Jul 1, 2020
Source: The Daily Star
Beirut airport reopens after nearly four months
33 new cases confirmed as general mobilization extended
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s only international airport reopened for the first time in nearly four months Wednesday, a move officials hope will help halt the collapse of the country's economy.

The first batch of departure flights left Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International airport early Wednesday morning, traveling to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, France, United Kingdom and Kuwait.

Five flights are set to arrive later in the day from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates.

The airport will operate at 10 percent capacity, which is expected to bring in around 2,000 travelers per day. Beirut's airport closed on March 18, a few days after authorities imposed a state of “general mobilization” against coronavirus.

In preparation for the reopening, the airport has set up social distancing signs to ensure travellers remain far apart in security lines and in seating areas. Disinfection tunnels have also been set up at the airport’s entrances for people to walk through.

Despite coronavirus concerns, Lebanon announced Tuesday that quarantine upon arrival is not required, but most passengers will arrive primarily from countries where PCR tests are available prior departure.

Travelers flying from countries that do not check PCR tests ahead of boarding will be tested at the airline’s expense upon arrival in Lebanon.

Passengers must pay for a second test 72 hours after arrival, in one of the laboratories accredited by the Health Ministry. If they test positive for coronavirus upon arrival they will be required to abide by the ministry’s instructions to self-isolate.

MEA said that it would aim to increase the volume of flights in and out of the country gradually.

Lebanese officials are hoping that the reopening of Beirut’s airport will help resuscitate Lebanon’s suffocating economy, which the government predicts will contract by 13.9 percent in 2020.

33 new cases confirmed as general mobilization extended

BEIRUT: Lebanon's Health Ministry announced 33 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday following the Higher Defense Council's recommendation earlier in the day to extend the country's general mobilization by another month.

The general mobilization period was set to end on July 5 but will now be extended until Aug. 2. The HDC also recommended that the government lift the night curfew, which is currently set between midnight and 5 am. These decisions come a day before Beirut's airport is to reopen.

Of the new cases recorded Tuesday, 27 were local residents and six were from abroad. Encouragingly, a total of 2,971 PCR tests were conducted over the past 24-hours, the highest all month according to government data and a number which should please experts who have said there need to be at least 2,500 daily tests to gain an accurate picture of the virus' spread in Lebanon.

However, with the reopening of the airport Wednesday, the country's exposure to the virus will inevitably increase. Such fears are reinforced by news that travelers coming to Lebanon will not be required to quarantine for a prolonged period. Instead they will only be required to remain at their place of residence until they receive the results of their on-arrival PCR tests. Arrivals will also have done PCR tests in the majority of countries from which their flights originated.

In comments made at a news conference Tuesday, Health Minister Hamad Hassan said that the number of virus cases remains at a stable rate but that the campaign against COVID-19 had entered a new phase. ''With the reopening of the airport, a new strategy has started. The plan is not to aim for herd immunity but instead we are working to increase the number of medical teams to conduct field tests in order to contain community spread.''

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