BEIRUT (AP) – Lebanese authorities began implementing a 11-day nationwide shutdown and round of curfew on Thursday, which is expected to limit the spread of coronavirus infections that go out of control after the holiday period.
For the first time, residents were required to request a one-hour permit to leave home for “emergencies”, including visiting a bakery, pharmacist, doctor, hospital, or airport.
There was pressure on the authorities to adopt a stern attitude after getting out of bed with daily infections reaching an all-high level of 5,440 cases last week in a country of about 6 million people.
The dramatic jump in transitions began in late December. As most governments around the world tightened the lockdown, Lebanon relaxed health measures over the holidays, reopening restaurants and nightclubs with no restrictions in place. An estimated 20,000 expats drifted back into the country to celebrate Christmas and New Year with the countrymen, many of whom are expats who had to travel in the summer due to the devastating August 4 eruption at the port of Beirut.
“The holiday season should have been a lockout time. Season of crowds, shopping and parties, ”said Hannah Azar, owner of a money transfer and telephone shop. “They opened it to allow dollars in the country and now they want to close, especially in this economic crisis. People do not have money to eat. “
Even before the coronaviruses, Lebanon was undergoing an unprecedented economic and financial crisis that saw a decline in its national currency and bank sector and forced depositors out of savings. Hospitals, long considered the best in the Middle East, struggle to pay employees, operate equipment, and secure essential medical supplies, because of a shortage of dollars.
Amid the increase, many hospitals have now reached maximum capacity for coronovirus patients. Some have prevented elective surgery as soon as they came out of beds, oxygen tanks and ventilators.
In addition, the country has been without a government since the old resigned after the August 4 explosion in the sinister port, which triggered 4 explosions at the port of Beirut, putting another strain on hospitals that injured them . At least three hospitals were destroyed.
A large explosion caused by an explosion of poorly stored ammonium nitrate reserves ignited the city, killing more than 200 people and injuring thousands.
On Thursday, police cracked down on checkpoints across the country, checking motorists’ permits to be on the road and in some cases traffic jams. The curfew is the strictest since the onset of the epidemic. For the first time, even supermarkets were told to close their doors and open for delivery only. That decision led to chaotic panic for three days, as concerned citizens emptied the shelves at supermarkets and grocery stores.
Lebanon announced a nationwide lockout only last week. But many people, including the Minister of Health and officials of a government committee, have considered it too low because it has exempted many sectors. In some areas of the country, it was business as usual, leading to a complete shutdown and a greater likelihood of curfew.