Director of the Rafic Hariri University Hospital, Firass Abiad, warned citizens on Tuesday of the appearance of a new Lebanese variant to the coronavirus if the already existing one continues to spread throughout the country.
“During last year, Lebanon was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons,” Dr. Abiad said, hinting to the Beirut Blast. “Will this year bring another: the Lebanon COVID-19 variant?” Abiad, who is currently deemed as Lebanon’s top health expert, wrote in a series of tweets.
He warned about the “high community transmission” which represents the perfect environment for the coronavirus to mutate and adapt to survive and keep to its deadly effects. “And COVID-19 has proven itself very good at that,” he added.
Dr. Abiad’s statement isn’t far from the truth, as Lebanon registered 3,157 positive cases on Wednesday amid a complete lockdown, and 66 more deaths from the virus, bringing the death toll to 3,803 as of the time of writing.
Abiad went on to criticize the country’s previous relaxed restrictions to control the pandemic, coupled with a weak COVID-19 genetic surveillance program.
According to him, both factors play a role in the emergence of the new variant virus.
“The conditions are ripe, as other variants travel into the country, spread undetected, and have the chance to mutate with every transmission,” Dr. Abiad explained.
According to him, if a new variant does emerge in Lebanon as it did in Brazil and South Africa, it would have dangerous consequences as the virus will “become more infectious, less responsive to the vaccine, and much more harmful.”
Considering no country is safe from the global spread of variants, the health expert stressed that it is therefore crucial that all support is given to the Lebanese Health Ministry so it can be capable to control the transmission and expand its surveillance program.
“The aim of this tweet is not to frighten, but to educate,” he said. “The more we know about the virus, the more we can plan and take the appropriate actions. With the coronavirus, slow and loose actions have proven to be very costly. As they say, fortune favors the prepared,” he wrote.
It is unclear what support the health ministry requires at this stage to develop its weak surveillance program. Meanwhile, the authorities are moving into preparing for the start of the vaccination program on Sunday.
They are launching a hotline on Thursday to help people register for vaccination, aiming to attain herd immunity by vaccinating 80% of the 6 million population by the end of 2022.
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