Lebanon’s government will be easing COVID-19 restrictions during the holidays to boost the economy despite a rise in hospitalizations. The Ministerial Committee assigned to tackle the COVID-19 decided to extend the tourism sector’s working hours from 10:30 PM until 3:00 AM.
The decision will only be implemented from December 23 until January 3, when Lebanon is expected to host thousands of Lebanese expats visiting for Christmas and New Year.
The decision has been subject to criticism by experts and citizens who used social media networks to highlight the government’s lack of implementation of precautionary measures required to proceed with such ease in restrictions.
Charles Arbid, President of Lebanon’s Socio-Economic Council, said that the chaos that occurs with lax procedures and overcrowding portends disaster if people do not act consciously.
“We are all responsible - individuals, business owners, everyone - help the medical body,” Arbid added.
Adviser to the caretaker prime minister for health matters, Petra Khoury, said that with the number of cases recorded now and adding in the festive season exposures, it would mean that January will be tough.
“It’s about the resiliency we’re going to need to get through the next two weeks. Like many of you, I miss my larger family & friends’ joyful company during this season. The best gift we can give our loved ones is distance and space. Unfortunately, unless we all comply, we shall be facing some rough times,” Khoury added.
Halim Shebaya, Director of The Arab Association of Constitutional Law, responded to Khoury, saying: “Adviser to prime minister giving sensible advice while the government is loosening restrictions during the holidays despite the risks involved. An example of sound advice coupled with an opposite policy implemented with no sense of contradiction. Welcome to Lebanon,”
Nasser Yassin, Associate Professor of Policy and Planning, added saying: “What we have seen of overcrowding in the past few days in restaurants, especially bars, which is likely to increase during the holidays, will lead to a wider societal spread of the coronavirus. Indeed, the majority of young people will not be affected, but the fear of transmitting the virus to their families and grandparents, especially with family holiday celebrations,”
Dr. Firas Abiad, CEO of Rafik Hariri University Hospital, said the easing of restrictions during the holiday season means that the responsibility for curbing the spread of the virus now rests primarily with the individual.
“Our individual and collective behavior during this period will determine the severity of the epidemic and its spread in the coming weeks,” he added.