BEIRUT: Lebanon has extended its nightly curfew amid a spike in coronavirus cases, as the health minister criticized people for practicing a “semi-normal life” despite the pandemic.
The daily report from the Ministry of Health said the total number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases had risen to 845 following 36 new cases.
Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmy said the curfew period at night would begin earlier, at 7 p.m. instead of 9 p.m., and run until 5 a.m.
Fahmy said: “Ensuring the health of society is a top priority on which the law does not compromise, and it is a social responsibility.” He lamented people’s lack of commitment toward precautions against the virus.
A jump in the number of transmissions between residents and returnees from abroad has caused concern about the possibility of a second wave of infections after Lebanon had entered a transitional period. The results of PCR tests of returnees showed 10 positive cases among Moscow plane passengers, one on board the Minsk flight, one on board the Kuwait flight, and two cases on board the Douala flight.
The flights arriving from Bahrain, Dubai, London and Ukraine did not record any cases on board. Lebanon is scheduled to resume evacuation flights for citizens stranded abroad to Beirut airport on May 14.
Health Minister Hamad Hassan tweeted that one of the expatriates who had returned to Lebanon, and who was supposed to have been in isolation for 14 days, “received visitors and caused the transmission of infection to his family and the people around him.”
Hassan criticized the Lebanese for “practicing a semi-normal life without adhering to the rules of social distancing and wearing masks” and said that the country might be locked down completely for 48 hours due to the emergence of new cases “to conduct a field survey in the areas where cases were found.”
Lebanon had allowed for the reopening of commercial markets, increased the number of professions that could return to work, as well as reopening mosques and churches, provided they followed preventive measures.
Dates were set for students to return to their classes at the end of May, in preparation for conducting the official secondary exams after canceling the intermediate certificate exams.
“We all have to bear the responsibility for the failure that Lebanon has experienced since the government retracted some of the measures without taking serious steps to monitor the situation,” Dr. Abdul-Rahman Al-Bizri, an infectious diseases specialist and a member of the Health Ministry’s crisis committee, told Arab News.
He warned that the virus may re-emerge due to violations of COVID-19 measures. Of the country’s 36 new cases, 13 are personnel from Beirut’s military court.
Investigations showed that one of the soldiers deployed to the court had contracted the disease from his father. He informed authorities, but the revelation caused panic among court officials and visitors.
Tests were carried out on military police at the court’s headquarters, with 13 testing positive but not showing any symptoms. Judges and lawyers will undergo tests on Monday and Tuesday.
A decision was taken to extend the suspension of court sessions until May 24, except for sentencing sessions, and premises of the Bar Association were ordered closed for disinfection.
Army Command on Sunday confirmed the 13 infections, but denied reports on social media that 1,200 military personnel had been placed in quarantine and domestic isolation.
Bekaa Gov. Kamal Abu Joudeh said that three military personnel were found to be infected with the virus, two of them in the town of Majdal Anjar and the third in the town of Talbaya. He said they were under home isolation.