BEIRUT: Lebanon’s government on Tuesday ordered the “full closure” of the country for four days, starting Wednesday night, as it seeks to ward off a coronavirus resurgence after easing some restrictions.
The rise in new infections follows a drop in cases to zero last week. “This achievement is at risk of collapsing” because some people have not complied with the guidelines, Prime Minister Hassan Diab was quoted as saying during a Cabinet meeting.
He said the government will re-evaluate its original five-stage plan for gradually reopening the economy. Hospitals, as well as the food and agriculture sectors, are excluded from the closure.
Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi said: “During the lockdown days, evacuation flights of Lebanese from abroad wishing to return will be completed.”
But Dr. Abdul Rahman Al-Bizri, infectious disease specialist and member of the National Emergency Committee on COVID-19, told Arab News that the high number of infections is due to “chaos abroad during the process of repatriation of Lebanese wishing to return … and the chaos inside as result of the lack of follow-up.”
He said: “The full-closure step is worthless if the government doesn’t come up with a plan by Monday to contain the epidemic.”
He added: “Flights carrying Lebanese stranded abroad by coronavirus lockdowns are overcrowded, and there’s no strict follow-up of persons who are home quarantined. Moreover, when the government gradually opened sectors, they were lenient toward those violating the state-mandated prevention measures.”
He said: “The government must carry out its duties and monitor and prosecute violators … We must return to normal life in an orderly manner. What the government did was just open the country and not monitor it.”
On Tuesday, the Health Ministry recorded 11 new cases of infection, taking the total to 870. Municipalities are monitoring citizens quarantined at home in villages and towns, and preventing gatherings. But in remote areas, prevention measures are reduced and sometimes almost nonexistent.
Meanwhile, on World Nurses Day on Tuesday, Lebanese politicians, including Diab and President Michel Aoun, paid tribute to nurses.
But Mirna Doumit, head of the Order of Nurses in Lebanon, told Arab News that “90 percent of nursing staff … are suffering from salary cuts, although they’re on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
She added that “32 nurses are infected with COVID-19. Some have recovered and are back at work, while others are still recovering.”