Lebanon orders two-week shutdown after COVID-19 surge

Reuters , Tuesday 18 Aug 2020

FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective face masks walk past open shops, as Lebanon is gradually reopening its economy following a four-day shutdown imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Hamra street in Beirut, Lebanon May 18, 2020. REUTERS

Lebanon's interior ministry ordered businesses across the country to shut down for two weeks and enforced an overnight curfew from Friday after a rise in coronavirus infections.

Tuesday's decision allows for clearing rubble, making repairs and giving out aid in neighbourhoods demolished by the Aug. 4 blast in Beirut. The airport will remain open, with travelers having to take a PCR test before boarding.

Lebanon has registered record numbers of daily infections that have crossed 400, with its tally on Monday standing at 9,337 cases and 105 deaths since February.

Already deep in financial crisis, Lebanon was struggling with a COVID-19 spike before the huge blast at Beirut port killed at least 178 people and pushed the government to resign.

The warehouse explosion damaged many hospitals and overwhelmed them with more than 6,000 wounded. It put about half of 55 medical centres across Beirut out of service.

Officials have urged precaution. But after the blast uprooted nearly a quarter of a million people, the risk of the virus spreading has grown, healthcare workers say.

All markets, malls, gyms and pools - among other private businesses - will have to close during the lockdown, the ministry said on Tuesday. The curfew will extend from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. local time, exempting workers in the medical and food sectors, as well as the army, diplomats and journalists. 

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