90 south Lebanon UN peacekeepers test positive for COVID-19

Spokesman for UNIFIL says positive coronavirus tests will not affect the force's operations.

Ben Ariel ,

United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)
United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)

90 UN peacekeepers in south Lebanon have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, a spokesman for the UNIFIL force said on Sunday, according to AFP.

The confirmed cases were transferred to a special UNIFIL facility equipped to deal with COVID-19 cases, UNIFIL spokesman Andrea Tenenti said in a statement.

He said 88 of those infected belonged to the same contingent, but he did not specify the nationalities of the 90 peacekeepers.

"We have undertaken robust contact tracing, and applied a thorough regime of testing and isolation" to prevent a larger outbreak, he said.

Some 45 countries contribute peacekeepers to UNIFIL, which was set up in 1978 to patrol the border between Lebanon and Israel.

UNIFIL currently works to implement Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

According to the resolution, Hezbollah must not be allowed operate in southern Lebanon and the entire area of southern Lebanon must be free of any armed personnel and weapons other than those of the Government of Lebanon.

Last month, the UN Security Council extended UNIFIL’s mandate by one year but also reduced its troop ceiling from 15,000 to 13,000.

Tenenti said that UNIFIL's operations along the Lebanon-Israel border are not affected by the new virus cases.

Lebanon has seen a spike in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases since an August 4 explosion ripped through the Beirut port.

The country has recorded a total of 23,669 COVID-19 cases, including 239 deaths since an outbreak began in February.