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No case of Lebanese with coronavirus in Abia – NIS official

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The Abia command of the Nigeria Immigration Service has described as “baseless and untrue”, an online report claiming that a Lebanese had shown signs of coronavirus in a hotel in Aba, the economic hub of Abia.

Mr Kabir Bello, the Chief Investigation Officer of the command, told newsmen in Umuahia on

Saturday that an investigation by the command showed that the report was unfounded.

Bello stated in a text message to newsmen that the man, identified as Mr Jareed Detten, is a South African and not Lebanese.

He stated: “Based on my findings, the story is untrue and baseless. I met the man in question hale and hearty.

“He is a South African and not a Lebanese. He is also having a resident status and not a visitor.

He has been in Aba and in the hotel since February.”

Also reacting to the publication, the Commissioner for Health in Abia, Dr Joe Osuji, said that there was no case of coronavirus in Abia.

In an interview with newsmen, Osuji said that he met the South African together with the NIS official at Hotel Du Golf in Aba, where he had lodged since February.

He described the online report of coronavirus case in Aba, involving the man, as “fake news”, and urged the public to discountenance it.

The Chief Security Officer of the hotel, Mr Jonathan Ogwo, also told newsmen in Umuahia on Saturday that the report had no iota of truth.

“The report was concocted by mischief makers to tarnish the image of the hotel,” he said.

Narrating the circumstances that led to the report, Ogwo said that Detten had lived in Lagos for many years and had a Green Card as a Nigerian citizen.

He said that the man, who is an engineer by profession, came to Aba to execute a contract and checked into the hotel on February 20.

He said that Detten, who had returned to his base in Lagos, developed fever after he was beaten by heavy rain at his project site in Aba on Monday.

Ogwo said that the man was taken to a private hospital in Aba, where he was diagnosed and treated for malaria.

He said that he was “taken aback” when a blogger reported the following day in his portal that “a Lebanese that lodged in the hotel showed signs of coronavirus”.

He said that the blogger also urged government to close down the facility and quarantine all the hotel staff that had contact with the foreigner.

“The Commissioner for Health and an official of the NIS in Abia, Mr Kadiru Bello, have all come to see the man and can confirm that there is nothing wrong with him,” Ogwo said.

“The blogger has published a retraction and an apology to the hotel, but we are obliged to officially counter the report in order to disabuse the minds of the general public,” he said. 

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Feature: Lebanese retail shops suffer low activity in wake of COVID-19 outbreak

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Emptiness is what characterizes a large number of retail shops along the downtown streets of Lebanon’s capital Beirut on Monday, the first day that the retail shops in the country are supposed to resume their full operations in a deteriorating financial environment.

Dory Slim, owner of Petals and Pearls, a well-known clothing shop in Beirut, has decided to shut her business down after 15 years of work in the industry.

She said her business bore the brunt of nationwide protests that broke out last year when people started having difficulties in withdrawing their money at banks, before the COVID-19 outbreak early this year exacerbated the situation.

“I have to pay a big amount for rent and I do not have fresh money to import products,” Slim told Xinhua.

Lebanon has witnessed in the past few months a shortage in the United States dollar because of an economic slowdown and the drop in cash injections from the Lebanese abroad.

Hence, banks decided to restrict withdrawals of depositors and their money transfers abroad, creating a huge crisis for local businesses who largely rely on import.

The dollar shortage has also created a parallel market, in which a greenback is exchanged for 4,000 Lebanese pounds and more, as opposed to the official price of about 1,514 pounds.

“If I secure dollars at the current market rate of over 4,000 pounds, I will have to increase my prices and no one will be able to afford my items,” Slim explained.

Nicolas Chammas, head of Beirut Traders’ Association, warned that many of the shops operating in malls will also not reopen.

“Many brands operating in Lebanon have numerous branches. Some must shut a few ones … while others have shut down all their branches,” he said.

In addition, the sharp loss in the value of the Lebanese pound against the United States dollar has caused a dive in the purchasing power of the Lebanese, Chammas noted.

After defaulting on its debt earlier this year, Lebanon has been negotiating with the International Monetary Fund the possibility of acquiring funds to save the country from further deterioration.

(XINHUA)

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Lebanese parliament approves 800 mln USD in social aid

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The Lebanese parliament passed on Thursday a bill that allocates 1.2 trillion Lebanese pounds (800 million U.S. dollars) for social support in the country amid deteriorating living conditions caused by over two months of COVID-19 lockdown, the National News Agency reported.

The law aims at providing aid to low income families and daily workers in the public sector in addition to supporting farmers and giving subsidized loans to small enterprises.

Lebanon’s COVID-19 infections increased on Thursday by seven cases to 1,168 while death toll remained unchanged at 26.

(XINHUA)

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China’s PLA donates medical supplies to Lebanese army to help fight COVID-19

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The Chinese People‘s Liberation Army (PLA) on Thursday donated surgical face masks, goggles, protective clothing and other medical supplies to the Lebanese army to help combat COVID-19.

Speaking at the handover ceremony held here at Lebanon’s Defense Ministry, Chinese Ambassador to Lebanon Wang Kejian said that when China was in the middle of its anti-epidemic fight, the Lebanese leader and people from all walks of life expressed their support for China.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, the two countries have maintained close cooperation on exchanging expertise and information on epidemic prevention and control as well as the treatment of patients, said Wang, adding that China has actively coordinated resources and offered several batches of medical supplies to Lebanon.

The PLA is offering today equipment to the defense ministry in Lebanon, which reflects the great friendship between the two countries, armies and peoples,” Wang said.

China is willing to tide over the difficulties together with the Lebanese people and army, Wang added.

Expressing appreciation for the donation, Lebanese Army Commander General Joseph Aoun, who also attended the ceremony, said that it is not the first time that China supports Lebanon during difficult circumstances.

This donation, which marks a milestone in the friendly cooperation between the two countries, “will have a great impact on the efforts exerted by the (Lebanese) army to protect its members from COVID-19,” Aoun said.

“We are keen to continue cooperating with China in a way that serves the interests of both countries,” he added.

Lebanon reported its first COVID-19 case in Feb. 21. As of Wednesday, the country had registered a total of 1,161 cases, with 26 deaths.

(XINHUA)

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Lebanese PM emphasizes “need for UNIFIL amid security threats by Israel”

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Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab emphasized on Wednesday the urgent need for the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) in south Lebanon, the National News Agency reported.

“Lebanon is in dire need for the presence of the UNIFIL in south Lebanon amid continuous violations by Israel for Lebanon’s sovereignty,” Diab said during his visit to the UNIFIL’s headquarters in Naqoura.

“We are keen on maintaining high cooperation between the UNIFIL and the Lebanese army to create a secure atmosphere for people in south Lebanon,” he added.

The prime minister said Lebanon won’t accept any modifications to the mandate of the UNIFIL in the country.

“The United Nations must force Israel to withdraw from Lebanese occupied territories,” he said, adding that “Israel continues to violate Lebanon’s sovereignty by air, land and sea.”

Meanwhile, UNIFIL Chief Stefano Del Col said the UNIFIL’s cooperation with the Lebanese army helped in guaranteeing stability in south of Lebanon for the past 14 years.

(XINHUA)

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Lebanon’s House Speaker warns against confiscating depositors’ money in Lebanese banks

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Lebanese House Speaker Nabih Berri warned on Friday against any attempts to confiscate people’s savings in Lebanese banks, the National News Agency reported.

“People’s deposits are sacred and a legitimate right for their owners. We will fight without hesitation any attempts to confiscate this money,” Berri said in a speech delivered on the occasion of Liberation Day.

Berri assured that citizens should not fall victim to the corrupted political system in Lebanon.

Lebanon has been suffering from a lack in foreign reserves in the country which prompted banks to impose unofficial restrictions on people’s withdrawals of money from their accounts.

This has created fear among depositors about the future of savings.

(XINHUA)

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Feature: Lebanese designers produce fashionable masks for fight against COVID-19

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Lebanese designers contribute to fighting against the COVID-19 by producing fashionable masks.

Huda Baroudi, co-owner at Bokja, a Lebanese brand of fashion design, uses recycled materials to make fashionable masks. The profits from the selling are offered to nurses at Rafic Hariri University Hospital.

“Nurses have been at the forefront of this fight against COVID-19 and we all know they have not been receiving their full salaries given the country’s financial difficulties so we decided to sell these masks and give the proceeds to nurses at the hospital,” Baroudi told Xinhua.

Some of Baroudi’s designs are inspired by historic characters such as Zenobia, queen of the Palmyrene Empire in Syria. Each of Baroudi’s designs tells a story that is related to travels, cities or even family traditions.

“We wanted to make some colorful masks to create a positive atmosphere instead of the regular masks used at hospitals,” Baroudi said.

Maria Hibri, Baroudi’s partner, told Xinhua that Bokja has so far sold a total of 1,500 masks including those distributed to nurses at Rafic Hariri University Hospital.

Hibri explained that Bokja covers the cost of producing masks by selling furniture and other products designed and made by the store.

Another Lebanese furniture designer Hala Habib, an owner of Barjis design, told Xinhua she is focusing on producing and selling fashionable masks to meet increasing demand for masks in the local market.

“My idea came up when news circulated over the media about the lack of masks in the local market and the great need by nurses and medical staff, who are in direct contact with COVID-19 patients, for protective material,” Habib explained.

Lebanon has been fighting against COVID-19 since Feb. 21. Pharmacists and hospitals have complained about lack of protective materials including masks.

(XINHUA)

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Feature: Lebanese use quarantine time to engage in productive activities

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Quarantine in Lebanon, caused by the outbreak of COVID-19, prompted a lot of citizens to explore ways of keeping themselves busy in a productive manner.

Lina Abu Ali, a 55-year-old nursery teacher in Nabatieh, south of Lebanon, has been active in encouraging her five children and their classmates to learn new art skills, such as drawing and handicraft.

“In less than two months, they are good at drawing and painting,” Abu Ali told Xinhua.

For her part, Linda Abu Turabi, a housewife, succeeded, during a short period, in turning her garden into a small museum.

“My three children and I converted rubber car tires that were thrown away into artistic masterpieces after we painted bright colors on them,” she said.

Abu Turabi said she worked on distributing the tires in an organized manner in her garden which won the admiration of her neighbors who suggested moving this aesthetic orientation to their gardens and to public parks.

As for the elementary school teacher in Hasbaya Rania Al-Aissami, she took advantage of quarantine by engaging in environmental activities, as she worked with her three children on painting and decorating waste containers distributed in the streets of the town using different drawings and several ideas.

She added that her quarantine hobby encouraged a number of municipalities to adopt it and promote it widely which is likely to have a positive impact on people’s willingness to start sorting households waste and adopt hygiene practices.

Mahmoud Aqeel, a cook at one of the touristic resorts on the Litani River in southern Lebanon, told Xinhua that he started with his wife a cooking course for his four children on how to prepare food, which includes cooking, tables’ decoration, and ways of serving food.

“My house turned into a cooking school. I succeeded at least in securing a profession for my children in light of the slowdown in job opportunities in the country,” Aqeel said.

For his part, Jamal Rizk, a university student, said he is using his time with seven of his friends to learn French language by taking professional courses over the internet.

“We have succeeded to a great extent in acquiring this language in light of a suffocating crisis, which we turned into an educational opportunity,” he told Xinhua.

Rana Hammoud, a university Professor of psychology, told Xinhua that a lot of citizens have used their quarantine time in a beneficial way by turning the crisis into an opportunity to start new careers that would help them in securing a decent living in the future.

“This is a great way to turn negative energy into a positive one by investing one’s time into an opportunity to open up to new alternatives for generating income in light of the difficult economic pressures in the country,” she said.

Lebanese authorities have imposed general mobilization measures in the country, including domestic quarantine and social distancing, since mid-March while extending them several times until May 24 in an attempt to fight against COVID-19.

General mobilization measures also include the closure of sea, land and air outlets, public institutions, educational institutions, private companies and commercial stores except for food shops, bakeries and pharmacies.

Lebanon’s number of COVID-19 infections so far reached 891 while death toll stands at 26.

(XINHUA)

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Feature: Lebanese young man survives COVID-19 via optimism, psychological support

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Ali Ashmar, a 25-year-old Lebanese man, caught the novel coronavirus in his village al-Hallousiye, some 10 km northeast of the coastal city of Tyre.

The young man said his optimism gave him the power to overcome the social pressure toward the COVID-19 patients and finally survive the virus.

“I was told by the doctor that I may have COVID-19 symptoms but I took his comment lightly. He was surprised not to see any fears on my face,” Ashmar told Xinhua.

Months earlier, Ashmar had already gone through a tough health problem which necessitated the implantation of bones in his leg.

“What does not kill you makes you stronger,” he said, referring to his favorite motto in life. “I now appreciate life much more and aim to make the most out of it.”

After spending 17 days at the hospital and another 14 days at home before he was assured of full recovery from the coronavirus, Ashmar was surprised to find people in his village were trying to stay away from him when he went out.

“I laugh when people stay away from me. I understand their fears and I feel I want to help quieten their fears by speaking to them about my experience,” he told Xinhua.

However, what has really bothered Ashmar is that his father, an assistant to the owner of a vegetables shop, had to quit his job temporarily although his father’s testing for COVID-19 turned out to be negative.

“We have been facing tough economic conditions … but we will eventually get over it like any other problems in life,” Ashmar said.

A key factor that helped Ashmar in his fight against COVID-19 is the support from doctors specialized in clinical psychology through an initiative launched by Hussein Hamieh, a postgradute in Clinical Psychology at the Lebanese University.

“We wanted to remove the link between COVID-19 and death to encourage people to seek help and go through the infection phase and treatment smoothly with minimum psychological impact,” Hamieh told Xinhua.

Hamieh said his initiative, with the participation of 870 clinical psychologists, receives calls through municipalities, nongovernmental organizations, associations and hospitals all over the country from people in need of psychological help.

“We are keen to intervene early to deal psychologically with infected people because psychological repercussions will be more serious after the person heals. Patients may develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),” Hamieh warned.

The Lebanese health ministry has launched a strategy for psychological support but it has not yet come into full implementation.

(XINHUA)

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Lebanese cabinet orders country’s complete shutdown amid increase in COVID-19 cases

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The Lebanese cabinet announced on Tuesday that it will completely shut the country down for four days from Wednesday night until Monday morning amid an increase in new COVID-19 cases.

Due to the effectiveness in containing the virus since its outbreak in Lebanon on Feb. 21, the government decided to reduce lockdown measures to allow people to return to work amid a dire economic situation.

However, the country has seen a rise in new cases recently. Lebanon registered zero new cases on April 21 for the first time since the virus got spread in the country, but it registered 36, 14, and 11 new cases on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.

Local health experts attribute the resurgence to several reasons, including nationwide protests which resumed due to dire economic conditions and the fact that some people did not commit to proper precautionary measures.

“We do not blame reduction in lockdown measures for this increase in new cases because people will eventually have to go out. However, some people left their houses without committing to proper measures, such as wearing masks and obeying social distancing,” Firas Abiad, director general of Rafic Hariri University Hospital, the main hospital treating COVID-19 in Lebanon, told Xinhua.

Abiad noted that some Lebanese expats arriving from COVID-19 infected countries did not quarantine themselves for 14 days as instructed by the Health Ministry.

Lebanon has made efforts in its fight against the virus by controlling the movements of people, and shutting down restaurants, hotels, casino, pubs, and all kinds of shops except for food and medicine shops.

Moreover, a big number of Lebanese doctors, researchers, engineers and students invented some equipment to make up for any lack in the medical supplies in the country.

Abiad emphasized the need by authorities to shut down the country for at least two weeks while taking measures to control people’s movements.

“If authorities do not have the capacity to do this, then they should at least force expats arriving from infected countries to be quarantined in specific places for a minimum period of two weeks,” he said.

He also suggested to use tracking apps on mobiles to help monitor people’s movements.

“People who jeopardize other citizens’ health should be punished,” he said.

Abiad also stressed the importance of increasing testing to make a better assessment of the situation.

The Lebanese government has increased its number of random tests conducted on a daily basis all over the country.

Moreover, Lebanon’s traffic management center announced on Tuesday that it has given 2,374 fine tickets in the past 24 hours for people who have violated general mobilization rules.

(XINHUA)

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