BEIRUT: A Lebanese man died Tuesday from the novel coronavirus, a health ministry official said, marking the country’s first recorded death from an epidemic that has infected 52 people nationwide.
The 56-year-old had been receiving treatment at Beirut’s Rafik Hariri state hospital, the official told AFP, adding that he had recently returned from Egypt, where novel coronavirus infections have also been detected.
Lebanon, already hit by economic collapse and anti-government protests, is now grappling with an outbreak of the deadly illness – its latest in a long list of crises.
Authorities on Tuesday said they had recorded 11 new cases in the past 24 hours.
Lebanon’s Shiite Muslim authorities have suspended the Friday weekly prayers and all other gatherings in mosques of their denomination until further notice.
Health Minister Hamad Hassan said last week that the country has moved beyond the phase of “containment” and was bracing for a more serious outbreak.
Schools, universities, cafes, pubs and other public places have since been ordered shut over fears of a spread of the virus.
Sports tournaments have been postponed and cultural events cancelled.
According to the health minister, the origins of Lebanon’s cases have mostly been traced to other countries.
Lebanon has said it would deny entry to non-resident foreigners arriving from China, South Korea, Iran and Italy, which are among the hardest hit by the epidemic.
But domestic concern is still high amid fears that Lebanon is not equipped to face a mass outbreak.
With a grinding liquidity crunch and dwindling foreign reserves, Lebanon has struggled to secure the dollars needed for medical imports even before the novel coronavirus arrived.