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Young doctor dies of coronavirus in first for Lebanon

Passengers are tested for COVID-19 at the arrivals' terminal of Beirut international airport
Passengers are tested for COVID-19 at the arrivals' terminal of Beirut international airport ANWAR AMRO AFP
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Beirut (AFP)

A young emergency doctor Monday became Lebanon's first medic to die of coronavirus, state media said, as daily infections rise in the eastern Mediterranean country.

Loay Ismail, 32, "died from coronavirus at the Nabih Berri hospital in Nabatiyeh", southern Lebanon, the National News Agency said.

The Lebanese-Italian Hospital in the nearby city of Tyre where he worked said Ismail contracted the illness "while carrying out his medical and humanitarian duty".

Firass Abiad, head of the main public hospital treating COVID-19 patients in Beirut, said: "Today we mourn Dr. Loay, our young colleague, who fell while doing his duty, treating a patient with #Covid19."

"We have taken an oath and are willing to sacrifice all for our patients. Yet this does not take away the heartache or make the loss tolerable," tweeted the director of Rafik Hariri Hospital.

The country has officially recorded more than 2,800 cases of COVID-19, including 40 deaths.

It has gradually lifted lockdown measures and opened Beirut airport to commercial flights at the start of July, after a closure of more than three months.

Over the past two weeks, the daily infection rate has risen, with dozens of new cases announced each day.

In the highest such increase, the government announced 166 new cases on July 12, including 131 sanitation workers.

At the height of summer, some beaches and bars are again thronging with people.

Health Minister Hamad Hassan on Monday warned of a possible return to lockdown over "people's behaviour" and non-compliance with social distancing.

The pandemic arrived with Lebanon already mired in its worst economic crisis in decades and many fearing the health sector could not cope with a spike in cases.

On Sunday, Abiad wrote on Twitter: "As the cases increase, more will need hospitalisation... Are hospitals ready?"

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