Lebanon returning to lockdown for four days as cases spike

The country had started lifting confinement measures as the spread of the virus seemed contained

epa08416380 An Anti-government protester, wearing a mask, takes part in a protest near the French embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, 12 May 2020. Protest called for French authorities to cancel financially help, via the CEDRE program, to what protestors called the corrupt Lebanon government.  EPA/WAEL HAMZEH
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Lebanon will close down again on Wednesday as the government announced a further four-day lockdown to stem the rising number of coronavirus cases in the country just over a week after reopening the country.

The cabinet on Tuesday ordered the shutdown from "May 13 in the evening until Monday, May 18 in the morning," the state-run National News Agency reported.

The Interior Ministry is expected to issue a statement to specify what sectors and which people will be exempt from the measures.

At the beginning of the Cabinet's meeting, President Michel Aoun highlighted the need to "tighten preventative measures to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, especially that the number of infections, unfortunately, increased in the past days."

On Tuesday, Lebanon's Health Ministry said that there were 11 new cases of the novel coronavirus, including 1 infected person returning from abroad on a special repatriation flight that has allowed thousands of Lebanese home in the past weeks.

The latest figures represent a sharp increase for Lebanon, where the pandemic has been relatively contained up to now. In total, the virus has infected 870 people and killed 26.

Last week, Lebanon slowly started lifting confinement measures, with restaurants, hairdressers, churches and mosques allowed to operate at reduced capacity. The move came after several days of either a very low number of new cases or none at all.

But then on Saturday, with numbers picking up again, Health Minister Hamad Hassan announced that he would seek approval for a two-day lockdown if the rise continued.

The next day, the ministry issued a stern warning, calling the Lebanese to adhere to strict home quarantine if they had received instructions from local authorities to do so, particularly those who took part in the repatriation programme.

There were new cases of infection in the past days "as a result of the non-application of required quarantine measures," said the health ministry's press release.

On Sunday, the Interior Ministry reintroduced a stricter night-time curfew, accusing the Lebanese of "selfishness, blatant disregard, and indifference towards their health and the health of society."

The army also announced that 13 soldiers from the Military Court had tested positive for the coronavirus.