BEIRUT: The number of COVID-19 patients in Lebanon passed 53,000 on Sunday, with an average of 1,500 cases a day.
The number of towns to be isolated from Monday increased to 169 towns, while the Ministry of Interior closed all bars, cabarets and nightclubs until further notice. Night curfews will be imposed from midnight until 6 a.m. throughout Lebanon.
The Ministry of Interior said that the measures were to address “the ongoing pandemic reality and the increasing number of infected people in a way that exceeds the scientifically permissible rates in regions and towns, to enable the Ministry of Health teams to conduct the necessary laboratory examinations and tracking.”
Last week, the ministry isolated 111 towns in various Lebanese regions. The new isolation lists include towns that were not listed last week.
The Ministry of Interior stressed the necessity for using face masks, avoiding overcrowding, maintaining safe social distance, closing all official and private departments and institutions, and canceling all social events in isolated areas.
The decision on isolated areas coincided with a move by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education to reopen schools for intermediate and secondary school in stages, in all regions except for isolated towns.
The decision to reopen schools was widely criticized on social media by students and parents.
MP Cesar Maalouf also called on “all parents to ignore the wrong, even catastrophic decision of the minister of education and refrain from sending their children to schools.”
Maalouf warned that Lebanon “has entered the stage of medical disaster in terms of hospital capacity, securing medicines and the high rate of infections, and we do not want to follow the Italian scenario. All private hospitals must open their doors to those infected with the coronavirus because government hospitals are on the verge of collapse.”
Petra Khoury, the adviser to the caretaker prime minister on medical matters, said she feared a rapid spread of the coronavirus as winter approached.
“Before reaching a terrible storm of infections if we do not control it before winter, we must slow the spread of the virus through isolation, testing and quarantining contacts,” she said.
But Dr. Osman Itani, a pulmonologist, said: “It is true that the number of infections has increased in Lebanon, but the admission rates to the hospital have remained the same, and most of the cases are mild and hospitals have coped till now with the situation.”
Itani said: “If the number of infected people per day reaches 2,000 or 3,000, then we must be concerned, but now the number is acceptable, and what worries us most is the spread of the virus in cities with high population density, especially in Beirut. It can be said now that there is a societal spread of the disease, and people can only be protected by wearing face masks and by preventing gatherings, especially in closed places.”