Covid-19, Lebanon eases restrictions for Christmas and year-end holidays

From Monday morning, restriction to contain coronavirus contagion will be eased. Restaurants will reopen to 50% of their capacity, curfew passes from 5pm to 11pm. Bars and night clubs remain closed. Minister for Health: the "danger" of contagions is still high and current.

Dec 01, 2020

BEIRUT: Starting Monday morning, the Lebanese authorities have gradually relaxed the restrictions imposed two weeks ago, following an exponential growth in new coronavirus infections.

Together with healthcare and the need to avoid a saturation of hospitals, Beirut has to try to relaunch a moribund economy on the eve of the festive season and Christmas, which is always an opportunity for shopping and the exchange of gifts.

Interim Health Minister Hamad Hassan told reporters that the country "will gradually reopen starting today", to give a respite to exhausted citizens and the numerous businesses and businesses on the brink of bankruptcy, before the Christmas holidays and end of year.

The restaurants, explains the head of the department, will reopen at 50% of their maximum capacity, while the bars and night clubs will remain closed and wedding banquets remain prohibited, to avoid gatherings. The night time curfew is also postponed, starting at 11 pm and no longer at 5 pm.

Following a meeting with the task force managing the emergency, Minister Hassan reports that some schools will return to face-to-face lessons, while others will continue with online distance learning. He therefore warned the population about the "danger" of an increase in infections that are still present and that the effects of the containment measures implemented in the last period are not yet known and it will take more days for a more complete assessment.

Before the lockdown came into effect in mid-November, the occupancy of ICU beds ranged between 80 and 90%, while "now it ranges between 65 and 70%" reports the Minister for Health. Since the start of the health emergency in February, Lebanon has registered over 125,000 infections of the new coronavirus, with about a thousand deaths.

A first nationwide lockdown imposed in March was effective in stemming the spread of the virus, before a gradual relaxation of restrictions in conjunction with the summer season; however, the number of cases has increased following the devastating double explosion at Beirut port, which caused over 200 deaths, at least 6,500 injured and overwhelmed hospitals.

In this context, the new coronavirus pandemic has fuelled the conflicts between the various parties while interim Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, to whom President Michel Aoun has entrusted the mandate to form the government in mid-October, struggles to find satisfy opposing interests and self-centredness of various parties.

The pandemic and political and institutional chaos have triggered an increase in suicides and a rush to buy the few remaining drugs, while hospitals are in catastrophic conditions, and pushed 55% of the population below the poverty line in a context of continuous emergency.--Asia News

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