Lebanon News

Lebanon to go under 25-day lockdown

Lebanese policemen stand at a checkpoint as the country goes into lockdown in a bid to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus in Beirut, Nov. 14, 2020. (The Daily Star/Mohamad Azakir)

BEIRUT: The Lebanese government imposed a new lockdown Monday that is set to last from Jan. 7 until Feb. 1, in a bid to to curb the dangerous spread of coronavirus as the holiday season comes to a close.

The national COVID-19 ministerial committee met Monday to dicuss the new measures, imposing a curfew between 6 p.m. and 5 a.m. as well.

The odd/even car license plate rule will be enforced as well, despite criticism that it did not yield the desired results during previous lockdowns.

Nurseries, schools and universities will be closed for in-person learning.

More details are set to be announced by the Interior Ministry tomorrow, including the sectors that are exempted from the lockdown.

Speaking after the meeting at the Grand Serail, Caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hasan said the government will demand from private hospitals to expand their coronavirus intake capacity and increase the numeber of ICU beds.

He also warned that legal action other than fines will be taken against those who violate the lockdown rules, since fines are not affecting the behavior of some people.

The number of travelers to Lebanon will also be reduced during the lockdown period, the caretaker Interior Minister Mohammad Fahmi noted.

The committee, chaired by caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, held a morning meeting to discuss the details of the lockdown and later re-convened in the afternoon to take a final decision.

Diab had warned at the start of the meeting that ICU units at hospitals were at full capacity, adding that "we have a very difficult situation. We need exceptional and firm measures," local media reported.

Lebanon saw a record number of coronavirus cases last week with total infections nearing 200,000 with almost 1,500 deaths. Officials have predicted a jump in cases and fatalities after the holiday season with many Lebanese ignoring safety measures.

Hospitals in Beirut neared maximum capacity last week.

In Jezzine, south of Lebanon, the same issues prevailed.

Local authorities acted quickly and put the town under lockdown Monday as the government discussed a countrywide lockdown.

Mzeid Barak, in his 80s, was sharing smiles with the medical staff at the Jezzine Governmental Hospital. He was recently transferred from an ICU to be monitored in a regular hospital room.

“I was at the mercy of breathing tubes, nearing death,” he told The Daily Star.

He said that his condition finally improved after 22 days and he “came back to life."

The Jezzine Governmental Hospital has also run out of beds for coronavirus patients. The hospital director, Dr. Charbel Massad, said they opened up their coronavirus wing with six regular beds and four ICU beds, but as numbers surged they were forced to increase their capacity. They now have 12 regular beds and will add three for the ICU division. But nevertheless those beds were quickly filled up, with no space left for new patients.

Charbel Elias, 51, was spending his seventh day in hospital after he was surprised to find himself infected by the vicious virus.

“I don’t know how I caught it ... I previously didn’t believe the virus was real, but now I do,” he said.





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