Yesterday, the Guardian published an article that suggested that the numbers regarding the outbreak in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq might actually far exceed the official figures, based on the concerns of international official workers and observers.
WHAT ARE THE REAL NUMBERS
Aid workers who have been speaking out claim that Lebanon (as well as Syria and Iraq) is likely to be holding thousands more infected people than what we know, and that the lack of disclosure actually poses a serious health risk. They also claim that in remote parts of Lebanon, like in the South, non-state actors are quarantining entire communities and coronavirus infected patients.
In Syria, the scenario is far worse, as, given the situation of the country internally, the central government cannot control the spread of the virus whatsoever. And though ground and air links between our countries have been largely cut, it is estimated that great numbers of virus carriers were able to return to Lebanon before the borders were sealed.
Having parallel health structures dealing with their own casualties is very alarming, as it prevents the official authorities to control the spread as well as the treatment. There might be a critical need of health structures that we are not even aware of.
NUMBERS ACROSS THE MIDDLE EAST ARE RISING STEADILY
Two months into the pandemic in our region, the number of cases keep rising. Unfortunately, testing in Lebanon has been at the bottom of the regional scale, with only 150-200 tests per day, whereas Gulf Arab states are testing extensively. The majority of infections in our region have been traced back to Iran. Indeed, while the pandemic was in the rise, Lebanese authorities let 1,200 people coming from Iran enter Lebanon. Even more worrying, the number of ventilators and beds ready for coronavirus is almost inexistent. And what about all the refugee camps across the country, where close to 2 million people live. If we have COVID-19 cases among them and the lockdown is not 100% respected, it will spread like wildfires and be a disaster.
LEBANESE PEOPLE ARE STILL POORLY DISCIPLINED AND GO OUT
Sadly, because a lot of Lebanese have shown little discipline and compliance towards respecting the home quarantine, the army was deployed to enforce public lockdown. However, if some areas are indeed being strictly supervised, others are still taking the measures way too lightly.
If many citizens showed discipline and resorted to home confinement even before the government decided to close the borders, on the other hand, many are mistaking this lockdown with an “improvised holiday”. Lebanese are big fans of social media, and now that they can’t go around as they please, like the rest of the world, they are spending a lot of time online. Unfortunately, they see influencers showcasing their own definitions of “social distancing”, filming themselves outdoors, touring the country. That has been inciting a lot of people to actually leave home and go out.
Weddings are being held, home parties in fancy mountain resorts, where many city families have relocated for the confinement, are happening as if it was spring break, and everyone seems to be jolly.
Being a responsible citizen today would mean respecting the home quarantine and total social distancing, so that we finally flatten this curve.