Marwan Naamani / photo union via Getty Images
The increase in coronavirus cases is overwhelming hospitals in Lebanon, prompting doctors to tell families to care for sick relatives at home because there is no more room in the wards.
Jean Nahul, executive producer of the Lebanese channel MTV, says his family has been calling around the country and has not found a cure for his 83-year-old grandmother, who has COVID-19.
“We had a list [of phone numbers] that my uncle and I broke up, “he says.” I called about 10 hospitals. Nine of them were full and the last one told me that they had one bed left for the intensive care unit, but that the priority was for young people who needed an intensive care unit. “
Lebanon’s health system was already weak from the economic collapse and explosion at the port of Beirut in August, which destroyed buildings across the city, including several hospitals. Now that the country registers the largest number of daily coronavirus infections from the pandemic, hospitals are barely able to find beds for even the most critical patients.
Lebanon registered a record 4,774 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, bringing the total to over 200,000 confirmed cases in the country with 6.8 million people. Health officials say more than 1,500 people in the country have died from COVID-19.
The World Health Organization says the occupancy rate of intensive care beds in Beirut and other parts of the country is 93% -95%. With their full wards and COVID-19 intensive care units, doctors say many hospitals now have to keep critical patients in emergency rooms that fill themselves quickly.
New Year’s parties
Hussein Mala / AP
After the most difficult year in Lebanon’s recent history, many Lebanese have decided to relieve stress with an evening of New Year’s Eve parties. They gathered in bars and organized parties at home. Social media was lit up with posts from crowds.
“We expect a jump in cases due to irresponsible behavior during the holidays,” said Dr. Firas Abiad, head of Rafik Hariri Public University Hospital in Beirut.
Bassam Osman, a surgeon at the American University Medical Center in Beirut, said he and his colleagues felt “terrible” watching the New Year holidays. “Imagine working all year. You’re exhausted and then you open your Instagram and see people partying everywhere, as if they don’t take anything seriously,” he says. “All feelings of sadness and helplessness disappear and this turns into absolute anger. And then there is nothing you can do because the damage has already been done.”
Lebanon on Thursday began its fifth nationwide blockade since the pandemic began, forcing restaurants and shops to close in three weeks. But compliance with past orders is uneven. Osman says he is not optimistic that the measures will have a significant long-term impact.
The health minister said Lebanon would receive its first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 in mid-February and would launch the shots free of charge. Meanwhile, doctors say they are preparing for long, difficult weeks.