Lebanese caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan announced a new three-stage plan on Wednesday to combat the rapid spread of Covid-19, which has killed 424 people and infected nearly 47,000 in the cash-strapped country.
Over the past few weeks, health professionals have warned that hospitals, which are already suffering from Lebanon's worst economic crisis in history and are facing a shortage of medical supplies, are running out of space.
Mr Hassan said that over the next 10 days, he would increase the number of beds available in seven public hospitals in Lebanon in regions where new Covid-19 cases are "increasingly dramatically," the state-run National News Agency reported.
The number of beds available in the regions of East Bekaa and South Lebanon will also increase over the next three weeks, followed by the expansion of intensive care units across all government hospitals, said Mr Hassan, without giving figures.
In parallel, the Health Ministry will distribute respirators to public hospitals.
Mr Hassan said the new plan would be financed with the help of Lebanon’s central bank and the World Bank, which agreed on a “new mechanism to pay suppliers”.
Lebanon is suffering from a cash crisis which has hindered the ability of importers to pay for imports in dollars. The local currency has lost about 80 per cent of its value on the black market.
Mr Hassan said the ministry had allowed private hospitals to increase their charges for treatment of Covid-19 patients. Before the pandemic, roughly 85 per cent of Lebanese patients were treated at private hospitals.
On Tuesday, parliamentary Health Committee MP Assem Araji said that 9.4 per cent of the 13,368 PCR Covid-19 tests carried out in the previous 24-hours had come back positive. The country, he said, was headed to "a dangerous place".
"The positivity rate of PCR tests has become very high, and this is a worrying sign that can take us to a dangerous place, which is a result of people not adhering to prevention guidelines," Mr Araji told Al Jadeed TV.
Since Sunday, 111 villages and towns have returned to lockdown with more than eight positive cases per 100,000 in the previous two weeks.