As Lebanon enters its second week of strict pandemic curfew, some residents have outsmarted an e-platform used to obtain transport permits to move around the country during lockdown. Using bogus reasons to get a permit, many people instead go skiing, partying and socializing.
One person fined for being in a supermarket purchasing goods, had permission only to take a pet to the vet. The animal wasn’t in the car when a police checkpoint stopped the person. A second person received a fine for visiting a friend, after skipping his applied for doctor's visit.
Since the pandemic outbreak, the government is enforcing its strictest lockdown rules amid an unprecedented spike in COVID-19 cases. With positive cases reaching up to 5,000 cases daily, the authorities introduced the extreme measures to stop the surge, and prevent the health system from collapsing.
The country had already been under a three-week lockdown, with daily curfew hours 6pm-5am. Introduced on January 7th the plan was curfew easing on February 1st. The alarming spike in coronavirus cases pushed the authorities to amend the lockdown rules and introduce stricter conditions.
Last week, Lebanon’s Higher Defence Council announced a total 24-hour daily public shutdown until February 8th, with limited exceptions for home deliveries.
Online transport permits during curfew
The Interior Ministry launched an e-portal for citizens seeking transport permits for emergencies and a list of imperative chores such as doctor, hospital, pharmacy or bakery visits and money transfers.
Fines start from 100,000 Lebanese pounds ($66) for individual violators, and could increase depending on the severity of the violation. Repeat offenders could face prison.
Legal procedures could lead to closure of commercial businesses, such as gyms and restaurants.
On Friday, the Interior Minister Mohammad Fehmi said the Internal Security Forces [ISF Lebanese police] stopped 18 people for breaching the curfew by ‘outsmarting’ the e-platform and claiming false reasons to receive transport permits.
ISF patrols stopped violators, issued fines for breaching the curfew restrictions and shut ski equipment rental shops.
Wedding and partying during lockdown
In Bhannine, in the north of the country, an ISF patrol raided a restaurant and stopped, private wedding party being held during the lockdown, sending the more than 50 guests home. Police arrested and fined the wedding organizer and restaurant owner.
An ISF senior officer told Al Arabiya English that a tipoff alerted them about the wedding, and on arrival the restaurant appeared closed, with the party taking place inside.
“There have been tens of various violations of such kind … whereby applicants believe to be outsmarting the e-platform by placing bogus reasons while applying for a transport permit, when for real they are breaching the curfew to just hang out and have fun. ISF patrols have been working with extra vigilance and exerting noticeable efforts to implement law enforcement procedures as sternly as possible. Amid this state of nationwide heath emergency, we call on the applicants to be cautious and ethical for their own sake and that of their beloved ones. Covid19 isn’t a joke,” said the officer.