Lebanon is preparing for a total lockdown starting on Thursday after detecting its highest daily number of new coronavirus cases since the outbreak began in December 2019, with the health ministry reporting 3,620 new infections in the past 24 hours.
The total number of confirmed cases in the country is now 195,759.
Lebanon announced a full lockdown for three weeks, including a night curfew, to stem a rise in COVID-19 infections that threatens to overwhelm hospitals in a country already facing financial meltdown.
First responders say they have been transporting nearly 100 patients a day while hospitals report near-full occupancy in beds and ICUs.
Nurses say they are overwhelmed, and private hospitals have been roped into the national response despite complaints that the cash-strapped government owes them large sums of outstanding debt.
Caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hasan said the lockdown would start on Thursday and run until Feb. 1, with further details on Tuesday on which sectors would be exempt.
The lockdown will include a curfew from 6 pm to 5 am.
“It has become clear that the pandemic challenge has reached a stage that is seriously threatening Lebanese lives as hospitals are not capable of providing beds,” Hasan told reporters after a meeting of the ministerial committee on COVID-19.
The new lockdown comes amid concerns over soaring unemployment, inflation and poverty.