90 UN peacekeepers test positive for COVID-19 in Lebanon

Most of the UN forces did not exhibit symptoms of the novel coronavirus.

al-monitor Members of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and soldiers from the Lebanese Armed Forces take part in a live fire exercise south of UNIFIL Headquarters in Naqura on Sept. 25, 2019. Photo by MAHMOUD ZAYYAT/AFP via Getty Images.

Sep 14, 2020

United Nations peacekeepers have tested positive for COVID-19 in southern Lebanon.

The United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said on Sunday that 90 of its peacekeeping forces tested positive for the coronavirus. Only four of them had symptoms; the others were tested for contact tracing purposes. Among the infected, 88 came from the same country, UNIFIL said in a press release. The UN did not say which country specifically they are from.

UNIFIL began its operations in south Lebanon near the Israeli border in 1978. It operates under a mandate from the United Nations Security Council. Its mission is to keep peace along the tense border and ensure that the Lebanese government maintains authority in the southern part of the country.

The armed group Hezbollah operates along the Lebanese border, and Israel has fought both them and the Lebanese armed forces in the area in recent years. There are currently 13,000 UNIFIL forces in Lebanon from several countries.

UNIFIL’s operations are continuing and the infected forces are in isolation, according to the UNIFIL statement.

Lebanon had relatively few coronavirus cases at the start of the pandemic, but infections have increased since the Aug. 4 explosion in Beirut. The blast killed nearly 200 people and left hundreds of thousands of people homeless with the extensive damage it caused.

On Saturday, the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health registered 641 cases. The highest-ever number of known daily cases in the country was 689 on Aug. 26, according to Ministry of Public Health data. Lebanon has a population of nearly 7 million, and there have been more than 24,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country.