Lebanon imposes quarantine on travellers from UK and Brazil

Measures were announced as coronavirus variants continue to fuel rising case numbers

Lebanese caretaker health minister Hamad Hassan visits a Covid-19 vaccination centre at St George's hospital in Beirut. Elizabeth Fitt
Lebanese caretaker health minister Hamad Hassan visits a Covid-19 vaccination centre at St George's hospital in Beirut. Elizabeth Fitt

Lebanon has imposed a five-day quarantine on passengers arriving from the UK and Brazil, where concerning coronavirus variants are found.

“All passengers wishing to come to Lebanon must have a hotel booking at their own expense for five days and four nights,” the Directorate General of Civil Aviation said late on Saturday.

Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport director Fadi Al Hassan confirmed to The National that the circular was issued to prevent different strains of the coronavirus from spreading in Lebanon.

Passengers from India were banned from entering the country in April, following a massive surge in cases seemingly driven by the new B.1.617.2 variant first recorded there.

The new measures come ahead of the summer, when tourists and Lebanese migrant workers flock to the country.

A new wave of coronavirus cases would jeopardise tourism – one of the few sources of income in the cash-strapped country.

However, some experts believe that targeted quarantine measures will only delay the arrival of the new variants.

Jade Khalife, a specialist in health systems and epidemiology, said that quarantines targeting only some countries have a limited effect and can easily be bypassed.

“People will transit through other countries and get into Lebanon – they always find a way around these measures,” he said.

Mr Khalife said to achieve the best results, quarantine requirements should extend to all travellers.

“It’s only a matter of time before these new variants get here. At best the new measures may delay this by a few weeks.”

The directive said that travellers will be escorted directly from the airport in special buses to three government-approved hotels: the Tulip Hotel, the Mayflower Hotel and the Alife-Apart Hotel-Sodeco, all in Beirut.

They must take a PCR test prior to boarding their flight to Beirut, have another after they land and a third while in quarantine.

Travellers who have had coronavirus in the past 90 days and those who have had two doses of Covid-19 vaccine are exempt from quarantine.

The B.1.617.2 variant is a more transmissible strain of the virus, and has been linked to a surge in infections in India – where more than 300,000 new cases a day were recorded at the end of April.

It also appears to be spreading quickly in the UK, where another variant of concern, known as B.1.1.7, is currently prevalent.

Lebanon’s caretaker health minister Hamad Hassan said this month that samples were being tested for the Indian variant, but Beirut has yet to announce any infections of this type.

Brazil is home to one of the world's largest Lebanese communities, with millions of people with Lebanese ancestry living in the country.

The P.1 variant was discovered in Brazil, and it is believed to be behind a surge in the virus in Latin America.

Experts have expressed concerns that P.1 is behind a second wave, helping take Brazil’s death toll past 350,000.

Lebanon reported 244 cases of Covid-19 and seven deaths on Saturday – a sharp drop from the thousands of new daily infections recorded earlier this year.

More than 500,000 people have contracted the disease in Lebanon since the pandemic began, and 7,718 have died.

Updated: May 30, 2021 06:57 PM

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