BEIRUT: The Lebanese bid farewell to 2021 amid health and security alerts, cautiously awaiting what 2022 holds.
Security services and civil defense members were deployed throughout the country on New Year’s Eve, setting up 60 checkpoints along the Lebanese coast from Anfeh to Naqoura, and in mountainous areas known to host parties this time of year.
An awareness hashtag #DontLetLaughterTurnToTears was launched for citizens, warning them to drive with caution so that the joy of the coming New Year does not turn into a tragedy.
The Ministry of Tourism demanded that restaurants, nightclubs and hotels deny entry to those without a vaccination certificate or a negative PCR test in the past 48 hours, all while abiding by current COVID-19 preventive measures.
Many rushed to bakeries, supermarkets and catering services on the last day of 2021, as the majority of citizens are spending the night at home or in chalets, while the well-off and expatriates who returned home for the holidays are celebrating at hotels and nightclubs.
Almost all television stations broadcast entertainment programs on Friday, giving out various gifts to callers, such as cheese wheels, dinner vouchers and a few dollars, which are now worth a fortune amid the financial crisis Lebanon is experiencing.
Although most Lebanese artists are singing at parties abroad this New Year’s Eve, the cost of attending a party during which several artists are singing ranges between $100 and $750, provided that only 30 percent of the venue’s capacity is filled, per the Ministry of Health’s guidelines.
Meanwhile, the committee that follows up on COVID-19 preventive measures had imposed a curfew on unvaccinated persons, but this measure has not been not taken seriously by all.
Ahead of New Year’s Eve, the Ministry of Health confirmed 4,537 new COVID-19 cases and 15 deaths.
As Lebanon escaped a lockdown over the holidays, Minister of Health Dr. Firass Abiad fears a health disaster that would force the concerned authorities to impose a full lockdown, which may harm the academic year that is supposed to resume on Jan. 10, 2022.
The Minister of Education and Higher Education Abbas Al-Halabi called on all officials of public and private educational institutions to make sure all employees take two vaccine doses, or face taking a PCR test twice a week at their own expense.
Assem Araji MP, a cardiologist who heads Parliament’s health committee, seemed concerned about the increasing omicron cases. “We face an outbreak; an increase in cases is imminent,” he said.
He expressed concerns about “the hospitalization rate rising following New Year’s Eve parties, especially since we are running low on COVID-19 beds in several hospitals amid the shortages in medical staff and medical supplies. We will thus be facing a painful health reality.”
Araji called on the public to “abide by preventive measures, or we will pay.”