Lebanon lockdown will be extended again, PM warns

Wearing a mask for protection against COVID-19 disease, a demonstrator waves a Lebanese flag during a protest against the growing economic hardship in Tyre. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 20 May 2020

Lebanon lockdown will be extended again, PM warns

  • Unprecedented measures could be implemented if the ‘state of chaos persisted,’ says Hassan Diab

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Higher Defense Council recommended a two-week extension of the country’s lockdown on Tuesday, amid a continued spike of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections in the country, which, if approved by the Cabinet on Thursday, would see the lockdown set to end on June 7.  

Lebanon recorded 23 new infections on Tuesday: Eight were resident citizens and 15 returning expats who were not tested before arrival in the country, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 954.
Prime Minister Hassan Diab called on the Lebanese people “not to take the coronavirus issue lightly and to take preventive measures against it.”
Diab stressed that Lebanon could be placed under total lockdown once again if citizens did not adhere to social distancing measures, warning that “unprecedented measures” could be implemented if the “state of chaos” persisted.
After the Higher Defense Council’s meeting, Lebanese Health Minister Hamad Hasan said the country was in a “transitional phase,” calling for the cooperation of municipalities and communities to ensure that lockdown measures were being followed.
Lebanon opened its border with Syria for the third time since closing it on March 15 as part of measures to curb the outbreak of the coronavirus. It approved the entry of 150 people through Lebanon’s Aboudieh border crossing, who were subjected to testing and required to undergo home quarantine for 14 days.
Six Middle East Airlines planes carrying evacuated Lebanese expats from Kuwait City, Doha, Paris, Georgia, Abidjan in the Ivory Coast and Cotonou in Benin arrived in Beirut on Tuesday — part of the third phase of the government’s repatriation plan, which began on May 14 and will run until May 24.
The extended lockdown has stunted Lebanon’s already flailing economy, with the impact most devastating on migrant domestic workers.
Lebanese Labor Minister Lamia Yammine followed up on the situation of foreign workers in Lebanon with a delegation from the Ethiopian Consulate in Beirut, headed by the country’s charge d’affaires, Aklilu Tatere Wube. The discussions focused on the “voluntary repatriation of workers to their country, the problems experienced by workers as a result of the economic conditions that have emerged in Lebanon, and ways to coordinate with the ministry to obtain their rights,” reported the minister’s office.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Schools and restaurants in Lebanon sound the alarm for closure.

• No goods in markets in 4 months, says president of the Syndicate of Importers of Foodstuffs, Consumer Products and Drinks.

The exchange rate of the US dollar at money exchanges has doubled, creating problems between employers and foreign workers paid in dollars.
The economic crisis, fueled by COVID-19, has forced various sectors to call for assistance.
Hani Bohsali, president of the Syndicate of Importers of Foodstuffs, Consumer Products and Drinks, warned: “Lebanon’s food reserve has plummeted to dangerous levels due to the difficulties facing the food import sector as a result of the lack of liquidity in dollars and the high exchange rate, sending commodities prices skyrocketing.
“The situation will lead to the possibility that the import of basic and nonessential food products will cease after about two months, and therefore the loss of goods from the market after about four months,” Bohsali added.
Amid the uptick of infections, the Cabinet also agreed to end the academic year for schools and to cancel official state exams, which were already in doubt due to the nonpayment of school fees by many parents, resulting in a failure to pay teachers’ salaries.
However, the General Directorate of Islamic Endowments in Lebanon has announced the reopening of mosques for Friday prayers.
The directorate said in a statement: “The mosques will reopen gradually based on medical reports from health specialists on the coronavirus pandemic.”
The directorate reminded people about preventive measures for performing Friday prayers, such as refraining from handshaking, and urged chronically ill people, seniors, women and children to stay at home. The directorate also called on all imams to shorten sermons to 10 minutes.


LIVE: Middle East returns to normal life amid strict COVID-19 measures 

Updated 19 min 36 sec ago

LIVE: Middle East returns to normal life amid strict COVID-19 measures 

DUBAI: Efforts to return life gradually back to some kind of normality in parts of the Middle East continue, as governments get ready to reopen borders and airlines take bookings for flights. 
Tunisia said it will open its sea, land and air borders on June 27 in the hope of rescuing its tourism industry as the coronavirus pandemic comes under control.
Emirates airline also announced that it was taking bookings for flights from Dubai to 12 Arab countries from the start of July. Emirates began operating scheduled flight services to nine destinations around the world from May 21, including London Heathrow, Frankfurt, Paris, Milan, Madrid, Chicago, Toronto, Sydney and Melbourne.
Meanwhile, Lebanon’s commercial complexes, hotels, cafes and museums reopened their doors to customers on Monday after closing for two-and-a-half months. 

June 2, Tuesday (GMT Times)

09:43 - New reported cases of coronavirus are steadily declining in Western Europe, but not in Russia and Eastern Europe: World Health Organization spokeswoman said.

09:34 - Formula One has unveiled an eight-race schedule in Europe from July 5 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

09:32 - Iran has reported 64 coronavirus deaths, 3,117 cases, raising total infected people to 157,562 with 7,942 fatalities.

09:20 - The number of coronavirus deaths in Britain is close to 50,000, Reuters reported.

09:07 – Hong Kong will extend restrictions on foreign visitors by another three months and an eight-person limit on group gatherings by two weeks, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said on Tuesday.
Both measures were due to expire later in June.
Travellers to Hong Kong need to undergo a mandatory 14 day quarantine period.

08:45 – 12,739 people died from coronavirus in England and Wales as of May 22, the Office for National Statistics said.

08:16 – Senegal has postponed the restart of schools until further notice after several teachers tested positive for the new coronavirus, the education ministry said late on Monday.

07:51 – Russia has confirmed 8,863 coronavirus cases and 182 deaths in the past 24 hours.

07:02 – A Wuhan doctor who worked with coronavirus whistleblower Li Wenliang died of the virus last week, state media reported Tuesday, becoming China's first COVID-19 fatality in weeks.
07:00 Paris gets some of its pre-lockdown life back as cafes and restaurants partially reopen Tuesday.
06:51 – The global coronavirus death toll has topped 375,000, according to AFP tally.

06:45 – The first Rohingya refugee died from coronavirus in Bangladesh, an official said.

05:59Egypt has sanitized prisons and carried out tests on prisoners across the country after banning visits to help curb the spread of coronavirus, local daily Egypt Today reported.

05:50 – A cluster of nine coronavirus cases raised concerns in Hong Kong over renewed local transmission in a city that has been one of the most successful in keeping the pandemic under control. 

05:18 – The United States on Monday recorded 743 new coronavirus deaths in 24 hours, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, bringing its total to 105,099 since the global pandemic began.