On Tuesday morning, the head of Beirut’s main public hospital treating coronavirus patients said his facilities would soon reach full capacity after a surge in the country’s Covid-19 cases. It was a statement that seemed to foretell the worst case scenario for Lebanon’s healthcare system, already buckling under the weight of an economic meltdown.
Hours after the announcement, a massive explosion ripped through Lebanon’s capital and its outskirts, devastating broad swathes of the city and killing more than 130 people.
Thousands flooded the hospitals, many of which were also damaged. Patients lay on the floor as they were administered IV-drips. The cries of babies bounced off the walls. One US citizen in Beirut told CNN that he visited the St George Hospital offering to donate blood. The security guard turned him away. “We don’t need blood, because there is no hospital. We are zero,” said the guard.
For now, the health ministry has said that field hospitals will be set up to treat the over 5,000 wounded, and sections will be designated for coronavirus patients. But where and how, amid this devastation, Lebanon can tackle its growing Covid-19 spread is anyone’s guess
On Thursday, Lebanon’s Health Minister Hamad Hassan told radio station Sawt Loubnan that the country was bracing for a rise in infections, state news agency NNA reported.
Due to the emergency and panic, I am worried that treating the wounded in hospitals and the loss of personal protection equipment supplies may have an impact on the number of coronavirus patients in the next 10 days,” he said.
Lebanon recorded 146 new cases on Wednesday, and 209 on Tuesday, according to an official statement by the Health Ministry on Twitter.
The country has seen a total of 5,417 coronavirus cases and 68 deaths so far, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.