Lebanon issues order to curb traffic as expats fly home

The interior minister said that new measures were needed as large numbers of people were ignoring requests to remain home

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab speaks to the media outside Beirut's international airport, Lebanon April 5, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
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The Lebanese government further restricted travel in the country on Sunday, setting strict rules about the time and days that vehicles can be on the road in a bid to stem the rising number of coronavirus cases.

In a decree on Sunday, the Interior Ministry laid out rules when cars, public vehicles and lorries can be on the road based on their number plates.

Vehicles with plate numbers that end with an odd number are allowed to travel on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays while those with plate numbers that end with an even number (including zero) are allowed to travel on only Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

No one is allowed to travel on a Sunday.

The only exemptions are for essential workers – including pharmacists, doctors and nurses, the Red Cross and the media – as well as security and diplomatic traffic. Deliveries for vital sectors – including meat, flour, tobacco, water, milk, medical and fuel – will also be exempt.

The Lebanese government announced a daily curfew to try to stop the spread of the disease, as the number rose again on Sunday by seven, bringing the national total to 527.

There was also a death, bringing the toll to 18.

Interior Minister Mohammad Fahmi said the new measures were put in place because of a "large number of citizens not abiding by the quarantine measures and the curbs on movement".

The first flight bringing home Lebanese nationals stranded overseas landed in Beirut on Sunday afternoon from Saudi Arabia. Lebanese media quoted the ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Fawzi Kabbara, saying that 1,500 people in the kingdom wanted to return to Beirut.

A couple sit at a waterfront promenade, along the Mediterranean Sea, which is almost empty of residents during a lockdown that imposed by the government to help stem the spread of the coronavirus, in Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, April 4, 2020. The virus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Hussein Malla)
A couple sit on the side of an empty waterfront promenade in Beirut after a government order to stay home to stop the spread of the coronavirus. AP

All arrivals will undergo testing and be quarantined in local hotels while waiting for results. Three other planes are expected on Sunday from other areas.

The foreign ministry has said that 21,000 Lebanese nationals overseas have requested assistance returning home.

"The government is concerned with every Lebanese at home and abroad and will work to remove sectarian, doctrinal, regional and political barriers," Prime Minister Hassan Diab said.