Priest flies over Lebanon to 'bless' country against coronavirus
A Lebanese priest has hired a private plane to fly over and bless the country to protect it from an outbreak of coronavirus.
Majdi Allawi, a Maronite priest, took to the skies over the weekend and prayed for God to watch over and protect Lebanon, local media reported.
Equipped with a cross, a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and a monstrance, the priest flew over Beirut and surrounding areas for two hours as he "pleaded with the Lord to protect Lebanon", media reported.
Allawi said the flight was designed to "bless the country, protect the homeland, and heal those who have been infected by the virus".
Lebanon reported its third death related to the new coronavirus on Thursday, and has halted flights from countries most affected by the virus.
Public and private sectors have been receiving painful strikes as the country passes through its worst economic and financial crisis in decades, and the virus is the latest blow.
The country's restaurant association said all eateries around the country will be closed until further notice, though delivery services would continue.
Religious groups have also taken measures to stop the virus from spreading, with some more unorthodox than others.
Suspending centuries-old tradition, Maronite priests are administering the Holy Communion by placing the wafer into the hands of worshipers rather than directly onto the tongue.
Churchgoers have also been encouraged not to greet each other with handshakes, while holy water fonts have been emptied and hand-sanitisers dispensers set up.
In a more controversial measure, some Christian worshipers have been delivering a mixture of holy water and soil from the grave of Saint Charbel Makhlouf to the Rafik Hariri Hospital in Beirut where dozens of infected patients are being treated.
Saint Charbel is widely believed by both Christians and Muslims to have miraculous healing properties for those who visit his tomb.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough.
For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus.
According to the World Health Organisation, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
In mainland China, where the virus first emanated from, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.