Lebanon returns to lockdown for four days

Lebanon had eased its anti-coronavirus restrictions, but an uptick in cases has prompted a reversal.

al-monitor People walk along Beirut's seaside Corniche after the government eased some restrictions on public life, in Beirut, Lebanon, May 10, 2020. Photo by REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir.

May 12, 2020

Lebanon announced a four-day lockdown today, reversing its previous decisions to open the country back up amid the coronavirus crisis.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun announced the decision by the country’s executive body, the Council of Ministers, on Twitter today.

“The Council of Ministers made the decision for a complete closure for a period of four days,” Aoun tweeted.

What the lockdown will entail was not immediately clear. The Interior Ministry will follow with a statement on guidelines and exceptions. It will go into effect tomorrow night, according to Aoun.

The announcement comes during an increase in confirmed coronavirus cases in Lebanon following days of low numbers. After several days of fewer than 10 new cases, Lebanon registered 34 on May 6 and then 36 on May 9. Lebanon registered 11 new cases today, according to Ministry of Health statistics.

Lebanon still has far fewer cases confirmed than some of its neighbors with 870 total, according to the ministry.

Lebanon began a lockdown in March to slow the spread of the virus while the numbers were still low, which may explain Lebanon’s relative success. There were fears the virus could spread among the more than one million refugees in the country, many of whom live in close quarters without access to proper hygiene.

The government eased the lockdown in late April, allowing some businesses to reopen and shortening the nighttime curfew after prompting job losses and hunger in a country that already faced economic hardship. Anti-government protests over the weak economy and the plummeting value of the Lebanese pound that began in Lebanon last October resumed immediately.

Restaurants were allowed to reopen last week, but some were unable to do without losing money due to the capacity restrictions. Last week the government extended the measures still in place for two weeks out of fear of a second wave.

There has been an uptick in domestic abuse during the lockdown that has hit other regional countries like Turkey and Israel as well. The number of women calling the International Rescue Committee's gender-based violence hotline more than doubled in Lebanon in March and April, a spokesperson told Al-Monitor.

Lebanon announced it was seeking International Monetary Fund assistance last month to help its economic recovery.

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