Lebanon is heading towards a “catastrophic” health situation, health professionals warned on Saturday after a sharp rise in cases of COVID-19 contamination during the end of the year celebrations and a virtual saturation of hospitals.
The National Committee to fight COVID-19 is to meet during the day to recommend to the authorities a new confinement of the country for three weeks, Petra Khoury, president of this commission, told AFP.
Several lockdowns have been declared in the country since February 2020, the most recent of which in November. But restrictions were then largely relaxed, leading to a significant rise in infections during the holiday season.
As of Wednesday, more than 3,500 new cases were recorded, a daily peak. A total of 183,888 cases have been officially recorded so far, including 1,466 deaths, out of a population of some six million, including nearly 1.5 million refugees.
On Saturday, the president of the private hospital union, Sleiman Haroun, spoke of a “catastrophic“. The 50 private hospitals in the country that welcome patients with COVID-19 are “almost saturated“, he told AFP.
These hospitals devote a total of 850 beds to infected patients, including 300 in intensive care, he said. “Patients line up in the emergency room waiting for a bed.“
“The problem is that once a patient is in intensive care, they stay there for three weeks.“ which delays the admission of new patients, said Petra Khoury.
According to her, “the gatherings and private parties organized at Christmas and New Year“ have largely contributed to the increase in contamination. “They represent more than 70% of positive cases“ the last days.
And emergency care units in Beirut hospitals are “over 90% saturated“, added Ms. Khoury.
Pending a decision from the authorities on a possible new confinement, the Lebanese Red Cross said it feared the worst.
“Several hospitals in Beirut have asked us not to transfer patients home. We therefore transport them to hospitals in Békaa (east) or Nabatiyé (south)“, told AFP the secretary general of the Red Cross, Georges Kettaneh.
In addition to the serious health crisis, Lebanon is plunged into its worst economic debacle which has caused a doubling of the poverty rate according to the UN.
The country is due to receive its first shipment of the vaccine in February.