BEIRUT: Having entered the stage of “gradual societal immunity,” according to the Minister of Health Hamad Hassan, Lebanon’s commercial complexes, hotels, cafes and museums reopened their doors to customers on Monday after closing for two-and-a-half months due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
People and employees underwent complete sanitization when entering malls, and adhered to putting face masks on in the street and in their cars, buses, shops and offices.
However, the movement remained slow. The streets did not witness major traffic jams, due to the new system of allocating days to drivers whose car license plates end in odd and even numbers on a rotating basis.
According to the decision of the Ministry of Interior, places still excluded from reopening are cinemas, theaters, assembly and wedding halls, gyms, nurseries, children’s entertainment spaces, and electronic game arcades and internet centers. The curfew hours also decreased; they are now from midnight to 5 a.m.
Shops in many markets seemed empty and closed, while some owners replaced their usual goods with others, with fruit and vegetables most popular.
Information International, an independent research and statistics institution in Lebanon, warned a few days ago: “The closure of some restaurants, hotels and tourist institutions due to the inability to bear the high costs and the decrease in incomes may affect about 50,000 workers.
“Moreover, the closure of some small businesses that sell clothes, shoes and nonessential goods due to a decrease in sales due to high prices, resulting from the high exchange rate of the dollar against the Lebanese pound, may affect 20,000 to 25,000 workers.”
An official working in the office of Health Minister Hamad Hassan told Arab News: “The date for the reopening of Rafic Hariri International Airport in Beirut is subject to an evaluation meeting.
“The airport is currently continuing the process of returning Lebanese people stranded abroad, who return via private planes or planes belonging to non-Lebanese companies that have permission to land in Lebanon to evacuate citizens of other countries to their homelands.”
The airport will be closed completely after two days for a further 14 days to assess the current situation and, based on this assessment, the government committee tasked with following up on the issue of coronavirus and putting preventive measures in place will make its recommendation regarding opening the airport fully to commercial air traffic,” the official added.
On Sunday, Michel Najjar, the minister of public works and transportation, hinted that the airport could be opened on the 21st of this month, but the official in the Minister of Health’s office told Arab News: “We will wait 14 days, and the decision may be to fully open the airport before this 21st, and we may not resume returning Lebanese citizens from abroad. The whole matter is related to the evaluation process currently taking place, and it can be said that Lebanon’s situation is comfortable and does not cause concern.”
The Ministry of Health’s daily report recorded 13 new confirmed cases on Monday, which raised the cumulative total of COVID-19 cases in Lebanon to 1,233 cases.
The death of one COVID-19 patient was recorded on Sunday, raising the total number of deaths in Lebanon to 27. The total number of those who have recovered from the disease reached 715 people.
Groups of young people protesting against the economic situation and corruption violated the curfew in Beirut on Sunday evening, and organized demonstrations in the vicinity of the presidential palace, parliament and in front of the homes of some government ministers.
Other groups organized protests in the city of Tripoli. Some protesters burned pictures of President Michel Aoun after several others were arrested. The protests were eventually dispersed bu the security services.