Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab on Thursday announced that Lebanon has become the second country in the world to implement “harsh” measures to curb the spread of coronavirus.
“The measures that are being implemented by the government have made Lebanon the second nation in the world to harshly implement the measures that are necessary to combat this pandemic,” Diab said at the beginning of a Higher Defense Council session.
“We are also seeking to increase the number of coronavirus beds in hospitals,” he added.
President Michel Aoun for his part said that “compliance with the full lockdown decision was positive and recorded a high rate despite the presence of some breaches that need to be addressed.”
The Defense Council later prolonged the total lockdown by two weeks to stem an unprecedented rise in coronavirus cases and protect the collapsing health sector.
The strict restrictions include a round-the-clock curfew and limit grocery shopping to home deliveries.
The complete lockdown had initially been due to run from January 14 to January 25.
But daily infection rates have remained exceptionally high and Covid-19 death tolls are spiking.
The health ministry said late Wednesday that a record 64 people had died from the disease in the previous 24 hours.
Firass Abiad, the head of Lebanon’s main state hospital treating coronavirus, backed the new extension.
Lebanon has reached the stage of “an uncontrolled epidemic with limited additional health system capacity available,” he said.
Intensive care units are near full, with occupancy rates of 91 percent nationwide and more than 97 percent in Beirut on Wednesday, the World Health Organization said.
Lebanon has recorded 264,647 coronavirus cases and 2,084 deaths since February 2020 in total.
Cases skyrocketed after families gathered during the end-of-year holidays and authorities allowed revelers to gather in bars until 3 am, despite warnings from health professionals.
Lebanon is expecting its first vaccines next month.