Beirut: In a preemptive step to impede a coronavirus spread among students, Lebanon’s Education Ministry has called for week-long closure of academic institutions as 10 have tested positive so far.
Education Minister Dr Tarek Al Majzoub issued a circular demanding a nationwide closure of schools, universities and academic institutes between March 1 and March 8 as a precaution against the spread of the disease.
In a media statement issued by the Ministry, Dr Al Majzoub said: “In the interest of the health of students and their families, all educational institutions including kindergartens, schools, high schools, vocational institutions and universities are requested to shut down for a week.”
The announcement came over the weekend in Lebanon, after the Health Ministry announced that the total number of persons infected with coronavirus had gone up to 10, as three new cases were discovered following their arrival from Iran.
The infected patient are being quarantined at Rafik Hariri University Hospital.
The country’s first three coronavirus cases were associated with pilgrims coming from Iran.
Although coronavirus remains in the containment phase as per Dr Abdul Rahman Bizri, an infectious disease doctor and member of the Lebanese emergency committee on coronavirus. He described the authorities’ decision to close schools and universities for a week as ‘premature’.
“The virus hasn’t been branded as endemic … an outbreak could occur like anywhere else but it’s not dangerous, especially that the cases were imported. It was pretty early ... we need to work on a contingency plan! This is a viral disease. We need to consider the remedies of closures … it shouldn’t be only the educational institutes but all public and private sector entities where there is interaction between individuals. We need to consider all aspects. The burden of the disease isn’t defined in the number of cases but rather by its impact on society,” Dr Bizri told Gulf News.
Lebanon halted flights for non-residents from countries with coronavirus outbreaks, including China, Iran, Italy and South Korea since Friday.
Dozens, including a TV journalist, have undergone testing and are either awaiting results or have tested negative and no deaths have been announced so far.
A number of leading universities like American University of Beirut, Lebanese American University and Notre Dame University had announced to thousands of their students that they would remain open, before retracting their decision and closing down on Monday.