Lebanon declares 24-hour curfew, state of emergency

The round-the-clock curfew will take effect at 5 am on Thursday and last until Jan. 25.

al-monitor A picture taken on Jan. 10, 2021, shows an empty main road in central Beirut after the country went into a three-week lockdown earlier this week in a bid to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Lebanon's hospitals are being overwhelmed by coronavirus cases, medics warned last week, as infection rates surged in the wake of the end-of-year holidays.  Photo by ANWAR AMRO/AFP via Getty Images.

Jan 11, 2021

Lebanon is tightening its nationwide lockdown, declaring a state of emergency and imposing a 24-hour curfew in a desperate effort to curb a growing coronavirus outbreak. A statement by the Supreme Defense Council said the new, all-day curfew will begin at 5 am on Thursday and run through Jan. 25.

The hastily announced measures prompted panic buying at grocery stores, which are closed to shoppers except for delivery. Twitter users on Monday uploaded photos of empty shelves at stores across the Middle East country.

Under the new restrictions, land and sea borders are closed to new arrivals. Air travelers from Cairo, Istanbul, Adana, Addis Ababa and Baghdad — where Lebanon’s health officials say 85% of the newest infections originated from — are required to stay in a hotel for seven days at their own expense, and undergo a test upon their arrival then another on their sixth day.

“We have seen catastrophic scenes of citizens in front of hospitals looking for a seat or bed,” President Michel Aoun said during a coronavirus meeting on Monday, Lebanon’s National News Agency reports. “Radical measures must be taken so that we can mitigate the catastrophic consequences of the coronavirus outbreak.”

The Ministry of Public Health on Monday announced 3,095 new cases and 23 deaths, raising the country’s total infections during the pandemic to more than 222,000. Last month, health officials confirmed Lebanon's first case of the new coronavirus variant that emerged in the United Kingdom and is potentially more contagious.

The Lebanese government announced last week a 25-day lockdown across Lebanon — the country’s third this year — which includes an overnight curfew from 6:00 pm to 5:00 am. Under the restrictions, street traffic is reduced, restaurants are closed for in-person dining, and schools and universities must operate remotely.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab described the current situation as “frightening” and blamed the “stubbornness” of individuals who didn’t comply with the original lockdown measures.

“Let us also admit that the enforcement of these measures was not equal to the level of the risk,” Diab added.

The small Mediterranean country imposed a lockdown in March, during which citizens and residents could leave their homes only for food and essentials. In November, Lebanon implemented a two-week lockdown as the availability of hospital beds waned and caseloads spiked.

Health officials are warning the surge in new infections could overwhelm hospitals already low on beds and resources. The massive explosion that ripped through Beirut this August caused major damage to the city’s health infrastructure, leaving more than half of hospitals unable to function.

The director of a private hospital in northern Lebanon told The Associated Press that his staff is now turning away patients.

“It is a difficult period,” said Kayssar Mawad. “We are refusing many cases. There are no places, no more respirators.”

Continue reading this article by registering at no cost and get unlimited access to:
  • Al-Monitor Archives
  • The Week in Review
  • Exclusive Events
  • Invitation-only Briefings