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    Surge in COVID-19 cases sees zonal containment trialed in Lebanon

    BEIRUT: Lebanese authorities said Monday they would introduce a new zonal approach to containing coronavirus as the number of cases climbed ever higher, with 1,018 people confirmed to have caught the disease within the past 24 hours and four more deaths. Just one of the people who caught the virus during that period had come from abroad.

    Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s media office said the ministerial committee to follow up on coronavirus agreed on introducing the “zonal system,” also known as the “traffic light system,” as a way to determine the containment measures to be implemented in different areas.

    White areas with fewer than five total cases are considered “very low risk,” and mask wearing and social distancing are recommended, according to a table based on the US Department of Health’s system that was published by Diab’s media office.

    “Low risk” or green areas have fewer than four cases per 100,000 residents over 14 days. Testing of contacts, contract tracing and isolation are additional measures to be taken in these zones.

    Yellow areas where there are between four to eight new cases per 100,000 people over 14 days are considered “moderate risk.” Intensive testing and contact tracing efforts are to be taken in those areas and not just targeted at contacts of cases. There will be a curfew after 7 p.m.

    In red areas where there is “high risk,” or more than eight cases per 100,000 people over 14 days, residents will be required to stay at home and there will be a local lockdown.

    It was unclear if travel restrictions would be applied between the zones, as is the case in other places where this “traffic light” color-coding system is implemented, such as the European Union.

    A soon to be launched digital platform run by Cabinet’s Disaster Risk Management center will publish data on each area’s classification, the statement from Diab’s media office said. Implementation will be carried out in collaboration with the Health and Interior ministries.

    Public health expert Sara Chang told The Daily Star that she “commends continued efforts to address the spread of COVID-19” but that she approached the proposal “with concern and caution.”

    Key among her concerns were: the limited appetite for additional containment measures among the public; the high levels of required “time, coordination and human resources among security forces to regulate movement;” and the varying capacity of the health system to provide the necessary levels of testing, contact tracing and isolation beds in each zone.

    “Although zoned approaches have had some success in other parts of the world, each country has a different context and different considerations. It is unclear how long a zoned approach would need to be implemented for the entire country to become ‘green,’” she said.

    “Success relies on the ability and willingness of businesses and community members in each zone to comply. If there are no additional supports provided for businesses and community members to weather lockdowns, such as food and financial assistance, it seems a worsening of poverty and hunger may be likely,” she added.

    Source :The Daily star

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