Lebanon to enter total lockdown as it struggles to cope with record Covid cases

President Michel Aoun declares health emergency as country’s health system shows signs of buckling

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Lebanon will enter a state of emergency from Thursday, introducing a 24-hour curfew and stringent new measures as it tries to stave off a collapse in its healthcare system.

Under the rules, supermarkets and restaurants will be permitted to open between 5am and 5pm for delivery only, and it will be illegal for people to be on the streets without specific exemptions.

Lebanon has had record numbers of Covid-19 cases in recent days, as it suffers devastating effects of relaxing restrictions in December, pushing hospitals to breaking point.

Beirut’s Rafik Hariri International Airport will remain open, with traffic limited to 20 per cent of capacity at most.

Passengers travelling from Baghdad, Istanbul, Adana, Cairo and Addis Ababa must quarantine at a hotel for seven days.

About 85 per cent of incoming coronavirus cases arrived from these cities, the government said.

Private businesses will be closed with a few exceptions, including pharmacies and bakeries.

People will be forbidden from leaving their properties from 5am on January 14 until January 25.

Measures introduced last week to close religious institutions, schools and universities, and a ban on all social gatherings was reimposed.

At a coronavirus inter-ministerial committee meeting, interim Prime Minister Hassan Diab criticised citizens’ attitude to the virus, saying they had not taken the dangers seriously.

“All indicators about the spread of coronavirus clearly show that we have entered a stage of extreme danger, or at the very least, we are about to enter this state,” Mr Diab said.

“Unfortunately, all our calls, appeals, warnings, measures and actions did not persuade a large number of Lebanese of the dangers of the epidemic.”

President Michel Aoun declared a state of “health emergency”, with the country’s health system shows signs of buckling under record numbers of coronavirus cases.

The intensive care unit at Rafik Hariri University Hospital in the capital was at 100 per cent capacity, while ICUs nationwide are believed to be more than 95 per cent full.

One hospital in the city of Byblos said it had begun isolating and treating Covid-19 patients in vehicles in the car park.

Reports of further restrictions prompted panic buying in supermarkets across Lebanon on Monday, with queues snaking out of stores and into car parks.

Outside one supermarket in Achrafieh, more than 20 people lined up in the street.

Rouba, 27, said the country was paying the price of relaxing controls over the holidays.

“There was a lot of contact between people and social gatherings and that made the pandemic spread,” Rouba said.

“Of course, this was wrong – they should have closed from the beginning.

“Restaurants and clubs stayed open for festivities. People were acting like there was no pandemic and not wearing masks.”