Exactly 33 days ago, Lebanon had not a single coronavirus case. Many Lebanese were intently watching world news, probably wondering what an outbreak feels like, and thinking that China is so far away that the issue doesn’t affect us.
Lebanese health authorities immediately went to work to try and calm everyone down and prevent unwanted panic.
The phrases “there is no need to panic” and “all is under control” were being stated and restated every day by the Health Ministry.
Then day after day, and quicker than anyone thought possible, the numbers grew and, with them, so did the realization that we might not be “so far away” from the pandemic after all.
Fast-forward a month after the first case, there are now 267 confirmed cases, and the number is going up every 24 hours.
Today, we also have active general mobilization in Lebanon; main roads that would usually be bustling with people and cars have been left empty to bake under the sun.
Lebanese Army helicopters are hovering over buildings in different areas and telling people not to leave their houses, Beirut’s international airport is closed shut, and so are most businesses and shops in the country.
Now, the point of this lengthy introduction is not to spread fear and anxiety. Instead, it is to provide a perspective that is much-needed at this stage of the epidemic.
Many people still think the coronavirus doesn’t concern them
While a good number of people in Lebanon are showing responsibility and adhering to home quarantine and other necessary measures, many others are clearly indifferent towards the incredibly critical situation.
These people are not only endangering themselves and their loved ones with their shallowness but also all their surroundings, and those who are doing everything they can to keep themselves and their families safe.
This is a virus that sneaks in unseen and takes over, and it sneaks in by contact and transmission.
The fact that some parents, during a world-scale pandemic, still allow their children to spend time in small, crowded gaming lounges is not just ridiculous but highly irresponsible towards their own kids whom they are meant to protect.
Received this video of municipal police busting what looks like an informal Internet cafe violating #coronavirus physical distancing orders in #Lebanon.
Notice the cigarette in the glove-clad hand of one municipal officer… meaning he’s putting it to his mouth. 🙃 pic.twitter.com/MznjDMXflM
The government did not order schools to close for the children to go out and have the time of their lives; it did so to leave parents no excuse to let their kids leave the house!
Similarly, people proudly holding marriage ceremonies in the middle of the street when the threat of infection is right around the block is utterly irresponsible; let alone allowing themselves to gather guests to celebrate.
The same goes for shop owners who pretend to be closed when they know security forces are nearby, only to reopen after the patrols leave their area.
The Lebanese Army and the security forces are not patrolling the country to play hide and seek with the citizens! They are working to keep everyone safe from the epidemic.
There’s a reason the whole world is stressing the importance of staying at home; it’s very easy to catch and spread the virus.
Optimism and positivity are for sure important, yet not without wiseness and maturity. The threat is real, too real to act with carelessness and indifference towards it.
Again, the point here is not to be in a constant state of fear and panic; this would be counterproductive. But being mindful of the danger is absolutely essential to evading it. Pretending that it isn’t there or that it is only the government’s problem will not make it disappear.
It makes so much more sense to stay at home than to be exposed to a virus that has the power to paralyze the greatest countries in the world. It has already paralyzed ours.
The World Health Organization has called it an “enemy against humanity,” and this should be enough for everybody to understand that it’s not a joke and that it concerns each and everyone in Lebanon as in the world.
So far, Lebanon has done better than many other countries when it comes to COVID-19 mitigation. However, it’s sadly very easy to lose all the progress we’ve made if we don’t make more effort, collectively and individually.
There’s yet to be a solution to the pandemic; the scientists of the world are all working on that. But in the meantime, the best weapons we have at our disposal are prevention and staying at home; we all have to use them.