Coronavirus: Priest flies over Lebanon to ‘bless and protect’ crisis-hit country from outbreak

Minister takes to skies to 'plead with Lord' over deadly virus in Middle East

Conrad Duncan
Tuesday 10 March 2020 13:44 GMT
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Christian Maronite priest Majdi Allawi flew over Beirut and other areas in Lebanon with a monstrance over the weekend
Christian Maronite priest Majdi Allawi flew over Beirut and other areas in Lebanon with a monstrance over the weekend (AFP)

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A priest has hired a private plane to fly over Lebanon to bless and protect the country from above as it battles an outbreak of coronavirus.

Lebanon recorded its first death from the virus on Tuesday after a 56-year-old man who had been in quarantine in Beirut and had a chronic illness passed away, a health ministry official said.

The country’s government has halted flights for non-residents from epicentres of the virus, shut down schools and warned against public gatherings as the total number of cases has risen in recent days.

Majdi Allawi, a Christian Maronite priest, took to the skies over the weekend as he “pleaded with the Lord to protect Lebanon” from Covid-19.

His flight was designed “to bless the country, protect the homeland and to heal those who have been infected with the coronavirus”.

Mr Allawi is said to have flown for about two hours over Beirut and other areas with a monstrance to bless the country.

Although Lebanon has a relatively low number of cases (just 41, as of Tuesday morning), health officials have warned that the country is poorly prepared to deal with a major outbreak.

On Tuesday, the country’s government said it would default on its Eurobond debt for the first time in its history amid a crippling financial crisis.

Hassan Diab, the prime minister, said Lebanon would not be able to make a bond payment of $1.2bn (£920m) which was due on Monday because the debt had become “bigger than Lebanon can bear”.

Health officials have warned that the financial crisis could pose a threat to managing Lebanon’s outbreak if the virus spreads widely.

Hassan Hamad, a Lebanese health minister, has warned the virus is already spreading and asked people to take precautions without panicking.

Concern in the Middle East over coronavirus has been heightened by the situation in Iran, where nearly 300 people have died and a total of more than 8,000 infections have been recorded by the country’s government.

Most of Lebanon’s cases have been linked to Iran, which is the epicentre of the outbreak in the Middle East.

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