The Lebanese cabinet announced the country will be entering a 4-day nationwide shutdown from Thursday to Sunday, including some exceptions that have yet to be announced.
Officials also extended the daily curfew on Sunday night as a result of the recent increase in the number of coronavirus infections.
The curfew, which previously began at 9 PM, is now back to beginning at 7 PM until 5 AM every day. The decision came after a spike in the number of new infections, with 36 people tested positive for the virus on Sunday.
Of these new infections, 13 soldiers at Beirut’s military court tested positive. Panic spread among military officials and courts. An estimate of 40 lawyers are said to have been in contact with people in the court, driving all to take a test and disinfect courts.
On Monday, the Ministry of Health confirmed an additional 14 cases, taking the total number of coronavirus infections in the country to 859 and deaths to 26.
Internal Security Forces have also tightened containment measures, tweeting its officers would be “forced to strengthen measures against violators” starting yesterday.
After the drop in coronavirus cases at the end of April, the government announced it will be adopting a five phase plan to gradually re-open businesses across the country.
Phase one allowed some factories, government companies, delivery services, hotels, and sweet shops to reopen. Phase two, which began on May 4, allowed restaurants to reopen under the condition that they ban shisha and allow only 30 percent of customers at a time, playgrounds, salons, barber shops, mechanics, etc.
Places of worship re-opened on May 8, following similar conditions as restaurants, while phase three was scheduled to begin yesterday and would have allowed nurseries for children below 3-years old to reopen, as well as Casino du Liban and car dealerships.
Experts had previously warned that the five phase plan may be commencing too early, advising the country to wait for when no one tests positive for two consecutive orders to consider reopening the country.
On Friday, reports of people flocking towards shopping centers and pubs went viral on social media. One video showed a mass of people gathering at Zara, Beirut Souks branch, despite official warnings to maintain distancing and avoid going out unless necessary.
Health Minister Hamad Hassan criticized the public for “practicing a semi-normal life without adhering to the rules of social distancing and wearing masks.”
The minister also tweeted an incident where an expatriate received visitors upon his arrival to Lebanon, instead of spending 14 days in isolation, and “caused the transmission of infection to his family and the people around him.”
ثلاث مشاهد في يوم واحدسبب خواطري هذه :
– مساعد وزير الخارجية الأميركي يدّعي صداقة لبنان والحفاظ على الصحة العامة بدعم AUB و NGOs
-مغترب بمنزله يستقبل المهنئين بدل الحجر ويسبب عدوى أسرته ومحيطه
– منطقة ترفض إقامة مغتربين لبنانين أصحاء من سوريا فأنزلتهم بفندق بجانب منزلي ببعلبك
Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi warned that a failure to comply with social distancing measures would result in the re-imposition of stricter lockdown measures.
“Ensuring the health of society is a top priority on which the law does not compromise, and it is a social responsibility,” said Fahmi.
However, Fahmi also authorized the reopening of construction sites and increased the operational capacity of restaurants from 30 percent to 50 percent, in contradiction of his previous decision to increase curfew hours.
Education Minister Tarek Majzoub promised to monitor the situations in the coming days, in order to decide whether he will proceed with reopening schools or not.
During the current lockdown, the country’s economy has suffered severely as the lira continued to plummet, and all businesses were forced to shut down. A stricter lockdown will bring about further economic collapse, but a second wave of coronavirus infections could break the current healthcare system, which are barely managing to stay afloat as is.
Social distancing measures are essential should the country curb a second wave of infections. To avoid the closure of businesses and economic activity once again, citizens must adhere to official guidelines as released by the World Health Organization.
The official guidelines still warn that individuals should not leave their houses except in times of necessity, and in such a case, should take the necessary precautions of wearing gloves and masks, and maintaining a distance of two meters between one another.