Lebanon closes schools until March 8 to curb coronavirus spread

FILE PHOTO: People wearing face masks walk outside Rafik Hariri hospital, where Lebanon's first coronavirus case is being quarantined, in Beirut, Lebanon February 21, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon’s Education Ministry on Friday announced the closure of all schools until March 8 as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus.

The announcement came as the country’s fourth case of the virus, affecting a Syrian national quarantined at a Beirut hospital, was confirmed in a statement from the hospital.

“In the interest of the health of students and their families ... the minister of education Dr. Tarek Majzoub requests all educational institutions including kindergartens, schools, high schools, vocational institutions and universities to close,” the education ministry said in a statement.

It said the measure was to take effect as of Saturday.

Lebanon’s first three coronavirus cases were linked to passengers arriving on flights from Iran, which has seen the highest number of deaths from the virus outside China.

Lebanon has since halted flights for non-residents from countries with coronavirus outbreaks, including China, Iran, Italy and South Korea, the transport ministry said on Friday.

Reporting by Eric Knecht; Editing by Chris Reese and Tom Brown