Lebanon went into a tight lockdown on Thursday, with residents also barred from grocery stores and forced to rely on food supplies as the country struggles to slow down new coronavirus cases.
The new restrictions were only loosely respected in certain parts of the country, reflecting the deep distrust of a political elite held responsible for a deepening economic crisis.
The lock-in, which was ordered after some hospitals began to run out of intensive care beds, includes a 24-hour curfew until January 25.
Unnecessary workers are not allowed to leave their homes and supermarkets are only allowed to work on delivery.
Those who need emergency exemptions – to see a doctor, say – can request one via text message or by filling out an online form.
In the capital, the roads were quieter than usual, while non-essential shops remained closed. The security forces stopped drivers at several checkpoints in the center of the city.
Security forces said compliance with the new measures was 94 percent.
But in some areas, some people dared to buy groceries.
When the lock came into force, the authorities announced on Thursday that 41 people had died from the coronavirus during the previous day, with 5,196 new infections registered.
In recent days, Lebanon has received record-high Covid-19 cases in one of the steepest transfers worldwide.
At Geitawi Hospital in Beirut on Thursday, director Pierre Yared said the emergency department was full of more than 30 people suffering from Covid-19 the previous day.
“The ER was filled with corona patients, there were no other patients,” he said.
Cases soared after the authorities loosened the restrictions during the holidays and made it possible for restaurants and nightclubs to be open until 3:00, despite warnings from healthcare staff.
A partial lock in place since January 7 has not succeeded in stopping the spread of the virus.
Firass Abiad, the prominent head of the state hospital treating Covid patients, warned that the latest locks must not fail.
“During the last 24 hours, four Covid-positive patients were presented in cardiac arrest to our emergency room,” he wrote on Twitter.
“One of them was a 19-year-old patient. This is serious. “
The new measures came into force after guardian Hamad Hasan was admitted to hospital with Covid-19 late on Wednesday, state media said.
The announcement on Monday raised fears of food shortages in poor and remote regions where supplies are not available.
For several days, Lebanese have flooded supermarkets and pharmacies to replenish their goods.
Some are worried that the new restrictions will cause further suffering to the country’s poorest.
Lebanon, a country of more than six million, was already struggling with its worst economic downturn in decades when the pandemic hit.
Previous blockades have forced companies to close and deprived some, especially informal day workers, of income. About half of Lebanon’s population lives in poverty.
The World Bank group on Tuesday approved a $ 246 million aid package to help 786,000 vulnerable Lebanese, but it is unclear when that will happen.
Lebanon has registered 237,132 cases since February last year, including 1,781 deaths.
The Riksdag is expected to convene on Friday to review a bill on the import and use of Covid-19 vaccines, which the authorities have previously said will arrive in Lebanon in February.
Coming after months of political crisis and masses against government demonstrations, the country’s Covid-19 response is monitored by a caretaker administration.
The previous government had resigned after a massive explosion of ammonium nitrate fertilizer in the port of Beirut last summer killed 200 people, injured thousands and ravaged large parts of the capital.
A deeply divided political class has not been able to agree on a new cabinet to implement reforms that are urgently needed.