Walid Hussein wrote in Al-Modon:
The number of tests conducted in Lebanon to determine the number of infections with the Coronavirus is still limited to a daily average of no more than two hundred. From the discovery of the first case of Corona on February 21 to April 6, the total number of examinations reached 9,635, or 0.16 of the population of Lebanon. Note that the number of cases was 541, or 5.6 percent of the total number of examinations. What is the importance of tests in containing the epidemic? Is the number of examinations in Lebanon proportional to government measures and sufficient to prevent transmission?
To answer these questions, “Cities” asked a member of the governmental emergency committee to confront Corona, the dean of the internal diseases department and the head of the bacterial and infectious diseases department at the Lebanese American University, Professor Jacques Makhbat and Professor Ghassan Dibibo, who is the head of the center for bacterial diseases research at the university The American University of Beirut is a professor of pediatrics, bacterial and infectious diseases.
Tests focus in Beirut
The two professors agree that the number of examinations in Lebanon is still small, and according to them, the greater the number of exams, the better the available information and the statistical data will be expressive, and give a better picture of the epidemic situation and its extent in Lebanon.
Debibo believes that Corona tests are still concentrated in Beirut and some surrounding areas. While in the south, north, Bekaa, and Hermel, checks are not enough. This does not contribute to knowing the extent and extent of the epidemic. Citizens there could not incur 150,000 liras for the examination. Also, citizens who feel slight symptoms do not perform the examination because of the physical conditions, especially in the border areas. Therefore, he believes that the number of examinations should be greater and that the cost be free or almost free to induce the population to perform the exams.
For his part, Makhbat pointed out that the importance of raising the number of examinations does not lie in knowing the extent of the epidemic, but also serves in the early detection of the disease to better treat patients, and to reduce transmission and spread of the epidemic. Experience has shown that patients with mild symptoms are indifferent, and they think that the matter is just a common cold, and then after a week, strong symptoms appear and are hospitalized. Therefore, testing does not aggravate the condition of patients who do not have symptoms in the first stage to catch the infection.
The number of checks needed
According to Makhbat, the number of examinations in Lebanon is still limited to about a thousand examinations per million citizens, while it has become internationally recognized that the more the country raises the number of exams, the more early it can detect the infected and control the epidemic. Rizk Hospital has initiated free examinations in the regions through the mobile clinic, so that the studies conducted by the hospital are based on accurate information on the extent of the epidemic on the one hand, and early detection of patients to treat them, and protect the rest of the citizens from the transmission of infection, as disappointed.
Regarding determining the number of examinations appropriate for any country, Dibibo considered that the issue relates to the number of examinations on the population. In America, they conduct about 5 thousand tests per million people, and in Korea about 8 thousand tests per million, while in Switzerland 17 thousand per million. In Lebanon, a compromise must be adopted in the number of examinations. But the most important of the number is the distribution of examinations in all regions, and among all social strata, to be representative of the entire population, and to give a picture of the current reality. He adds, that the best way to know the reality is to perform the exams according to statistical samples, but in Lebanon, it can at least distribute the tests to the areas far from Beirut, by providing hospitals with the possibility of conducting free or near-free exams, and sending samples for examination in Beirut.
Ministry of Health numbers
For his part, Makhbat believes that the current figures issued by the Ministry of Health regarding the number of cases indicate that Lebanon has controlled the progress of the epidemic. But as the Lebanese return from abroad, there is concern that the epidemic will return to spread. This imposes more citizen commitment to quarantine procedures. On the other hand, increasing the number of examinations serves officials on how to improve these procedures, whether in terms of gradually increasing them or in terms of tightening them, based on statistical data.
As for Dibibo, the available information, issued by the Ministry of Health, on the number of infected people and the spread of the epidemic, is limited to citizens who voluntarily go for tests. There is no information on the injured who are not examined. There are people who have no symptoms or have mild symptoms who have not tested themselves. Consequently, whoever takes measures to extend or cancel the stone will base its decision on incomplete information, as long as it is not based on accurate information about the spread of the epidemic. Therefore, he stresses the importance of raising the number of exams in order to obtain accurate information about the numbers of infected people and the spread of the epidemic, to know how to change the procedures of home quarantine scientifically.