Coronavirus update: Lebanon could ‘lose control’ of pandemic, PM fears

Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab says the nation is in danger of losing control of the pandemic, with case numbers increasing ever since the recent deadly explosion in Beirut.

Meanwhile, in the Philippines the nation passes a bleak case number as President Rodrigo Duterte calls for calm in the face of criticism.

This story will be updated throughout Thursday.

Thursday’s key moments:

Lebanon could ‘lose control’ of coronavirus outbreak, PM says

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab speaks at a podium
Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the number of cases is increasing greatly.(AP: Lebanese Government/Dalati Nohra)

Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the country was at risk of losing control of its coronavirus outbreak after a spike in the number of cases following the massive explosion in Beirut on August 4.

“The number of cases is increasing greatly, and if this continues, we will lose control of this epidemic,” Mr Diab was cited as saying in a statement issued by the Supreme Defence Council.

Lebanon registered 525 new COVID-19 infections and 12 deaths on Tuesday (local time).

The country experienced a spike in infections following the catastrophic explosion in the capital city at the start of the month.

Cases doubled in the two weeks following the blast, as infections spread in hospitals where victims were being treated, medics say.

The Government imposed a partial lockdown last Friday to help combat community spread.

The lockdown, which includes a curfew from 6:00pm to 6:00am, still allows for clearing rubble, making repairs and giving out aid in neighbourhoods damaged by the explosion.

The airport will remain open, with travellers having to take PCR tests before boarding and on arriving in the country.

Japanese researchers examine if ozone gas can harm virus

Japanese researchers said low concentrations of ozone can neutralise coronavirus particles, potentially providing a way for hospitals to disinfect examination rooms and waiting areas.

Scientists at Fujita Health University told a news conference they had proven that ozone gas in concentrations of 0.05 to 0.1 parts per million, levels considered harmless to humans, could kill the virus.

The experiment used an ozone generator in a sealed chamber with a sample of coronavirus.

The potency of the virus declined by more than 90 per cent when subjected to low level ozone for 10 hours they said.

A recent study at the Georgia Institute of Technology also showed that ozone may be effective in disinfecting gowns, goggles and other medical protective equipment.

Chinese city resumes large-scale virus testing

A person squats in place after being handcuffed to a rail beside a building in Urumqi.
It was not clear why Urumqi residents were being handcuffed in the street.(Weibo)

The city of Urumqi in China’s north-west Xinjiang region resumed large-scale virus testing of residents to stop a coronavirus outbreak, the Government announced.

Footage has emerged showing people in Urumqi being handcuffed to rails in the street during the lockdown, but it remains unclear why.

The Xinjiang region has recorded 826 confirmed virus cases, with 124 hospitalised from mid-July through Tuesday (local time) in the outbreak, the Government reported.

The announcement said testing would cover “key communities” but gave no indication how many people would be involved.

Duterte under fire as Philippines passes unwanted milestone

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines surged past 200,000 in another bleak milestone for a country that already has the highest number of infections in Southeast Asia.

The Department of Health reported 5,277 new cases, mostly in densely populated Manila, bringing the country’s total to 202,361, including 3,137 deaths.

President Rodrigo Duterte is facing growing criticism over the spread of the disease, with vice-president Leni Robredo saying, “It’s as if no one is at the helm, no direction, no clear horizon as to when and how this pandemic will be addressed”.

Mr Duterte said Ms Robredo did not back up her allegations with evidence.

“Please do not add fuel to the fire. You will just destroy the Government,” Mr Duterte said.

Gaza man dies of coronavirus as enclave clamps down on outbreak

A Palestinian man wears a face mask as he locks a shop in Gaza.
The virus has begun to spread into different areas of the enclave of two million people.(AP: Hatem Moussa)

A 61-year-old man has died in the Gaza Strip after contracting the coronavirus, Palestinian authorities said, as they clamped down on an outbreak of the pandemic in the enclave.

The man had suffered previous illnesses and had been on a respirator, the Health Ministry said.

It was the first death among the general population since an infected woman died at a quarantine centre in March.

Health officials said nine more cases were discovered on Wednesday (local time).

Six of them were in the isolated Maghazi refugee camp where a first four cases had been confirmed on Monday (local time), prompting Gaza’s Hamas authorities to impose a full lockdown.

The three other cases were in northern Gaza Strip, indicating the virus has begun to spread into different areas of the enclave of two million people.

Myanmar shuts schools after biggest daily climb in coronavirus cases

All schools in Myanmar have been ordered to close after the nation reported 70 new coronavirus infections, its biggest daily rise, as authorities try to tackle a resurgence of the virus following weeks without confirmed domestic transmission.

All but one of the new cases announced on Wednesday (local time) were in the western state of Rakhine, each linked to an outbreak in the state capital Sittwe, where a lockdown and curfew were imposed last week.

Myanmar’s outbreaks have been relatively small compared with other countries in the region, with just six deaths and 574 infections in total, but an increase in COVID-19 cases by nearly 35 per cent in just over a week is causing some concern.

Sittwe is also home to crowded camps where about 100,000 Rohingya Muslims have been confined since violence erupted in 2012.