Lebanon tightens Covid-19 restrictions as infections skyrocket

Beirut (AFP) –


Lebanon on Monday tightened novel coronavirus measures by imposing a 24-hour curfew for an 11-day period and introducing new travel restrictions to stem an unprecedented spike in infections.

The latest measures came as officials and health professionals warned that hospitals were quickly running out of beds, leaving many scrambling for treatment, even though a lockdown has been in place since January 7.

The new measures will be enforced from Thursday until January 25, according to a statement released after a meeting of the Higher Defence Council, the country's top security body.

All citizens are to remain at home with few exceptions, including health professionals, journalists, those working in the food sector and other essential workers, said the statement.

Land and maritime borders will be closed to all travellers except those carrying a valid transit visa and passenger traffic at the Beirut airport will be slashed to 20 percent of arrivals in January 2020.

Travellers arriving from Baghdad, Istanbul, Adana, Cairo and Addis Ababa will need to quarantine in a hotel for seven days at their own expense.

They must take a PCR test upon landing in Lebanon and then again six days later.

Lebanon, a country of more than six million, has recorded 219,296 Covid-19 cases, including 1,606 deaths, since February.

Over the past seven days, it has recorded a 70 percent increase in infections, placing it among the countries currently experiencing one of the world's steepest virus upticks, according to AFP data.

It trails behind Portugal, which as seen a 73 percent increase, Nigeria, with a 77 percent rise, and Ireland, with a 190 percent uptick.

Firas Abiad, the head of Lebanon's main coronavirus hospital, said the country recorded more than 30,000 new cases between January 3 and 10 , hitting a peak of 5,440 new infections on Friday.

Overwhelmed by the influx of new patients, hospitals have had to turn people away, sending many families into a desperate hunt for hospital beds.

One hospital at the weekend said it was treating patients in cars because it had reached capacity.