Coronavirus update: Virus spreads to every city and most villages across Lebanon after port blast

Lebanese medical officials have pressed for a two-week lockdown to help contain surging coronavirus case numbers as hospitals struggle after the recent deadly blast in Beirut.

In France, riot police are being sent to the country’s south to crackdown on people who don’t wear masks.

This story will be updated throughout Tuesday.

Tuesday’s key moments:

Sharp rise in cases in Lebanon after deadly port blast

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About 180 people were killed and more than 6,000 were wounded after a large store of ammonium nitrate exploded.

Lebanon is facing a surge in coronavirus cases after the devastating blast at the Beirut port earlier this month that killed scores and wounded thousands.

The rise in cases has prompted medical officials to push for a two-week lockdown to try to contain the pandemic.

Virus numbers were expected to rise after the August 4 explosion of nearly 3,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored at the port.

Around 180 people were killed, more than 6,000 wounded and a quarter of a million were left with homes unfit to live in.

The blast has overwhelmed the city’s hospitals and has also badly damaged two that had a key role in handling virus cases.

Ahead of the surge, medical officials had warned of the dangers of crowding at hospitals in the aftermath of the explosion, at funerals or as people searched through the rubble.

A man sits on a concrete wall and uses his phone to take a picture of the widespread wreckage of a port.
Lebanon’s Health Minster has urged people to wear masks as he warned the country’s true caseloads could be far higher than official figures.(AP: Bilal Hussein)

Protests and demonstrations also broke out after the blast as Lebanese vented their anger at the ruling class and decades-long mismanagement.

On Sunday, Lebanon registered 439 new virus cases and six deaths.

The new infections bring to 8,881 the total number of cases in the small country of just over 5 million, where COVID-19 has killed more than 100 people.

Health Minister Hamad Hassan has warned the true number could be far higher.

He has urged everyone wear a mask, saying the virus has now spread in every city and almost every village in Lebanon.

“It is a matter of life and death,” Mr Hassan said, adding that soon private and public hospitals might not be able to take more patients.

France deploying riot police to enforce masks

A huge crowd of people are packed onto a beach in front of hotels.
Cases have been rising sharply across France in the past few days.(AP: Daniel Cole/File)

The French Government is sending riot police to the Marseille region to help enforce mask requirements, as part of a move to slow rising infections.

An additional 130 officers are being deployed after outdoor mask requirements were expanded to include to all farmers’ markets and more neighbourhoods on Friday.

France has seen scattered incidents of violence by people refusing to wear masks.

Paris expanded its mask requirements on Saturday, and other towns around France started requiring masks outdoors on Monday.

Infections have been speeding up around France in recent days, with 3,015 new cases on Sunday, one of the highest daily spikes since the country lifted a strict two-month lockdown in May.

More than 30,400 people have died in France, one of the highest death tolls in the world.

South Korea pastor tests positive amid virus spike at church

A man in a suit speaks over a lowered face mask to a group of surrounding media, who are all wearing face masks.
Almost 320 infections have been linked to Jun Kwang-hun’s church.(AP: Ko Jun-beom/Newsis)

A conservative South Korean pastor who has been a critic of the country’s President has tested positive for coronavirus.

More than 300 virus cases have been linked to the Reverend Jun Kwang-hun’s huge church in northern Seoul, which has emerged as a major cluster of infections amid growing fears of a massive outbreak in the greater capital region.

South Korea reported 197 new cases of the virus on Monday, the fourth straight day of triple-digit increases.

Most of the new cases in the past few days have come from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, home to about half of the country’s 51 million people.

An aerial shot shows a crowd of thousands standing tightly together across major roads.
Mr Jun and some members of his church has attended the large anti-Government rally in Seoul.(AP: Ahn Young-joon)

Churches have been a constant source of infections, with many not making worshipers wear masks, or allowing them to sing in choirs or eat together.

Health workers have so far linked 319 infections to Mr Jun’s church after completing tests on about 2,000 of its 4,000 members.

Police are still been pursuing about 700 church members who could not be contacted.