Lebanon decided on Thursday to extend strict confinement for two weeks, initially decreed until January 25, to halt an exponential increase in cases of the new coronavirus and relieve saturated hospitals, in a country in the midst of an economic crisis.
The small country of six million inhabitants has so far recorded 269,241 cases, including 2,151 deaths. On Thursday, the health ministry reported 67 dead in 24 hours, a new record.
Imposed since January 14, “the total closure is extended until February 8 at 5:00 am (03:00 GMT)”, announced the Supreme Defense Council in a statement.
The confinement is accompanied by a 24-hour curfew and a closure of businesses, which will only be allowed to make home deliveries. Exceptions are provided for medical staff or journalists, and exit certificates for certain trips.
Authorities are working to increase the number of beds available for patients with COVID-19, at a time when the hospital sector is under pressure.
In intensive care, the occupancy rate is now 91% across the country and 97.89% in Beirut, according to the latest figures released Wednesday by the office of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Lebanon.
“According to WHO criteria, Lebanon is currently at level 4: an uncontrolled epidemic, with limited additional capacities for the health system”, indicates on Twitter Firass Abiad, director of the main public hospital mobilized in the fight against coronavirus.
“This requires expanded measures to avoid having outdated health services and excessive morbidity and mortality rates,” he says.
The current surge is largely due to the relaxation of restrictions during the holiday season.
The World Bank announced Thursday that it would finance the distribution of vaccines in Lebanon by February, the first operation of its kind financed by the international institution.
The $ 34 million funding will provide vaccines to more than 2 million people.
The vaccine will be deployed as a priority among high-risk health workers, the population over 65, epidemiological and surveillance staff and the population aged 55 to 64 suffering from comorbidities.
The country is embroiled in its worst economic crisis in decades, with its historic currency depreciation, hyperinflation and massive layoffs. Half of the population now lives in poverty.