The Lebanese government agreed Tuesday to reinforce coronavirus lockdown measures after a spike in new cases threatened to overwhelm the crisis-hit country’s healthcare system.
Lebanon, a country of some six million people, has recorded a total of 3,879 cases of COVID-19, including 51 deaths.
It has gradually lifted lockdown measures and in early July opened Beirut airport to commercial flights after a closure of more than three months.
But new cases have increased since restaurants, bars, clubs and resorts reopened.
On Saturday, Lebanon recorded 175 new cases, its highest daily number of infections.
To stem a larger outbreak, the government ordered a nationwide lockdown from July 30 until August 3, coinciding with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad said after a cabinet meeting.
The lockdown will be suspended from August 3 until August 6, with restaurants and cafes allowed to reopen at 50 per cent capacity while nightclubs, bars, indoor pools and public parks remain closed.
It will then go back into force for another five days, after which authorities will reassess whether stricter measures need to be taken.
The pandemic struck as Lebanon was already mired in its worst economic crisis in decades, prompting fears that the country’s fragile health system could collapse.
“We are in a new phase in our war against the coronavirus pandemic,” Prime Minister Hassan Diab said on Tuesday.
“We must take strict measures to protect our people.”
Firas Abiad, the head of the Rafik Hariri University Hospital, the country’s main coronavirus hospital, warned on Sunday that Lebanon is “on the brink of losing control” and backed calls for a renewed lockdown.
“We need a timeout. It will allow us to reorganize, get our act together,” he said on Twitter.