Lebanon fears new coronavirus wave could overwhelm health sector - GulfToday

Lebanon fears new coronavirus wave could overwhelm health sector


A patient rests on a bed in a hallway of a hospital in Lebanon's capital Beirut on Friday. AFP

Gulf Today Report

Lebanon’s first cases of the Delta variant were detected on July 2, despite a low count of new infections. Doctors worry the new strain may lead to a surge in infections amid a sluggish vaccination campaign and few restrictions.

Dr Firass Abiad, who heads Rafik Hariri University Hospital, Lebanon’s largest public hospital, says the Delta cases are unlikely to be the first in the country.


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Lebanon's deepening economic crisis has piled pressure on hospitals, leaving them ill-equipped to face any new wave of the coronavirus, a top hospital director has warned.

"All hospitals... are now less prepared than they were during the wave at the start of the year," said Abiad, the manager of the largest public hospital in the country battling Covid.

Firass Abiad speaks during an interview at the hospital in Lebanon's capital Beirut on Friday. AFP

"Medical and nursing staff have left, medicine that was once available has run out," and ever lengthening cuts to the mains power supply have left hospitals under constant threat.

Already struggling with shortages of medicine and an exodus of staff abroad, the country's health facilities are now also having to contend with almost round-the-clock power cuts.

Even the Rafik Hariri University Hospital he runs has been struggling to cope.

A patient receives treatment at the Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut on Friday. AFP

"We only get two to three hours of mains electricity, and for the rest of the time it's up to the generators," Abiad said.

On top of worrying they could burn out, "we have the huge burden of having to constantly be on the hunt for fuel oil."

Huge demand for the increasingly scarce commodity has driven up prices by more than 80 per cent since June 17.

On the other side the United Nations warned on Friday that more than four million people in Lebanon, including one million refugees risked losing access to safe water as shortages of funding, fuel and supplies affect water pumping.

A medic assists a patient as others wait in a hallway at the Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut. AFP

"UNICEF estimates that most water pumping will gradually cease across the country in the next four to six weeks," a statement by the UN body said.

Lebanon is battling an economic meltdown that has propelled more than half of its population into poverty and seen its currency lose over 90% of its value in less than two years.

The financial crisis has translated into severe shortages of basic goods such as fuel and medicine as dollars run dry.

UNICEF said that should the public water supply system collapse, water costs could jump by 200% a month as water would be secured from private water suppliers.


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