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Lebanese Health authorities will impose a curfew on unvaccinated people during the coming holiday period as concerns mount over a new wave of coronavirus driven by the Omicron Covid-19 variant.
Lebanon has yet to register a case of Omicron, but fears that the virus will spread to the cash-strapped country have pushed authorities into preventive action.
From December 17 until January 9, 2022 the unvaccinated will need to provide a negative PCR test that is not older than 48 hours to move around from 7pm until 6am.
Health Minister Firass Abiad said the new measures aim to limit socialising as Lebanese expatriates flood home for the holiday season, while sparing the country's ailing economy after two years of financial collapse. He did not specify how people would prove their PCR test status, or what penalties there may be for those flouting the new rules.
“Most activities in the evenings are social in nature anyway, we do not want to put the entire country on hold,” he said at a press conference.
Starting from January 10, all medical workers, education, tourism and public sector employees, including army and security forces, must be fully vaccinated to go to work. Unvaccinated staff must provide a negative PCR test result twice a week at their own expense.
Schools and universities will be closed from December 16 until January 9, 2022.
All tourist establishments, restaurants and hotels will refuse entry to customers who cannot provide proof of vaccination or negative PCR test results beginning December 10, 2021.
Parties and gatherings must be limited to 50 per cent capacity. People organising events with more than 100 guests must request permission from the Tourism ministry to proceed.
Mr Abiad ran Lebanon’s largest hospital before he became a minister and often warned of the struggles Lebanese hospitals faced due to economic hardship.
Lebanese hospitals were once among the best in the Middle East but after two years of economic collapse the medical sector is struggling.
Power cuts and shortages of medicine and the exodus of highly skilled medical workers have weighed on Lebanese hospitals, sparking concerns about their ability to handle a new wave of Covid-19.
The variant first spotted in South Africa has now spread, and scientists fear that vaccines may not be as effective for Omicron.
Passengers arriving at Beirut airport from December 10, 2021 will be required to obtain a Ministry of Public Health pass prior to boarding their flights.
Fully vaccinated travellers are exempt from taking a PCR test. Others must take a test before boarding the plane and on arrival.