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Lebanon renews curfew as coronavirus cases resurge

A main street is seen empty after a state of emergency was declared on Monday due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Beirut, Lebanon on 22 March 2020. [Hussam Chbaro - Anadolu Agency]
A main street is seen empty after a state of emergency was declared on Monday due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in Beirut, Lebanon on 22 March 2020. [Hussam Chbaro - Anadolu Agency]

Lebanon has renewed a strict night-time curfew after a spike in local cases over the weekend, with the government warning that if numbers do not drop, a 48-hour lockdown could be imposed.

The country started easing lockdown measures last week, with restaurants and bars allowed to reopen for take away and socially distanced service, while hairdressers are able to operate at reduced capacity. The night time curfew was relaxed to 9pm to 5am as part of the easing, but a spike in cases has forced the government to re-instate the 7pm to 5am closure.

Minister of the Interior Mohammad Fahmi blamed the move on some Lebanese who have a "blatant disregard and indifference towards their health and the health of society".

Lebanon's Internal Security Forces (ISF) has similarly tightened containment measures. Announcing on Twitter today, "in order to prevent the spread of the virus, the Internal Security Forces is forced to strengthen measures against violators starting from Monday morning".

The move comes a day after Health Minister Hamad Hassan warned the lockdown could come back into force, "if the number of cases and results remain high", during a field visit at the Syrian border, The National reported.

READ: Lebanon blocks currency exchange apps, claims they share rates illegally

The number of coronavirus cases in Lebanon jumped to 845 over the weekend, after the Health Ministry reported 36 new confirmed infections yesterday. The Lebanese Army also announced yesterday that 13 soldiers from the Military Court had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Of the 36 new cases, 23 were found among the local population while 13 were recently repatriated nationals.

In previous days, the numbers of cases have plateaued with new infections reported solely among returning expatriates. The highest number of new infections were reported in the northern province of Akkar and were reportedly caused by a returnee from Nigeria, the Daily Star reported.

Adding, the man tested negative on arrival in Lebanon and had failed to adhere to self-quarantine procedures, causing the spread of the disease. The flight carrying the man from Nigeria, which arrived on Thursday evening, recorded 25 infections among its passengers.

Returning nationals who test negative are expected to self-quarantine for 14 days post arrival in Lebanon, with regular check-ups from the Health Ministry and local municipalities, but there are no guarantees local authorities are adhering to guidelines.

Similarly, videos circulated on Friday of attendants on a Middle East Airlines (MEA) repatriation flight refusing to leave seats between passengers, raising fears expats could be carrying coronavirus back to Lebanon unwittingly.

READ: Israel demands major changes to UN peacekeeping in Lebanon

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CoronavirusLebanonMiddle EastNews
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