Lebanon begins 11 days of 24-hour curfews to stem COVID-19 surge

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People shop at a supermarket ahead of a tightened lockdown and a 24-hour curfew to curb the spread of COVID-19 in Beirut on January 13, 2021. (Reuters)
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A man carries a gas cylinder on a motorbike in the southern Lebanese city of Sidon on January 13, 2021 as the Lebanese rush to stock up on provisions one day before a total lockdown due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. (AFP)
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Empty shelves are pictured inside a supermarket after people hoarded food as authorities are discussing the latest measures to implement to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Beirut, Lebanon, January 11, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 14 January 2021

Lebanon begins 11 days of 24-hour curfews to stem COVID-19 surge

  • A state of health emergency, a total lockdown and a curfew have been imposed between Jan. 14-25
  • Lebanon’s land and sea borders will be closed from Thursday, while the country’s airport will be operating at its lowest operational capacity

BEIRUT: Starting Thursday morning, the Lebanese people will be put to the test again, as a new 11-day lockdown is imposed.
All projections predict a spike in the country’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the upcoming days, while the hundreds of intensive care hospital beds dedicated to COVID-19 patients are full. Doctors have started to check on patients inside ambulances, and ask those who need oxygen to provide it at their own expense, and stay home.
According to the Lebanese Health Ministry’s statistics, there were 618 critical cases and 80,386 active cases as of Wednesday morning, while the number of daily cases recorded has not dropped below 4,300 for days. These infections came a week after social interactions during New Year celebrations.
A state of health emergency, a total lockdown and a curfew have been imposed in the country between Jan. 14-25, a period that can be extended, to face the most dangerous COVID-19 wave Lebanon has witnessed since recording its first case last February.
The Lebanese Armed Forces, along with the state’s security apparatus, will ensure the implementation of the curfew across Lebanon, noting that this is the first time the army has been asked to take part in the measures to limit the spread of the virus.
Under the state of emergency, “the security forces and judicial authorities have the right to strictly enforce the laws that punish the hospitals that refuse to treat urgent cases, including coronavirus cases, punish those who do not abide by the prevention measures, and issue tickets for those who violate these measures and contribute to the spread of the virus.”
The Supreme Defense Council has prohibited people from going onto the streets, with some exceptions for medical personnel, nursing staff, diplomats, travelers and the employees of a number of institutions that require minimum administration. However, food and grocery stores will only be operating through delivery service.
Lebanon’s land and sea borders will be closed from Thursday, while the country’s airport will be operating at its lowest operational capacity. Only transit passengers with tickets showing their crossing date will be allowed to cross into Lebanon through the land borders.
Minister of Health Hamad Hassan announced on Wednesday that he is now quarantined pending the necessary tests after three of his office staff tested positive for COVID-19, joining 18,715 others who have been forced to quarantine over the past 2 days.
This comes at a time when all eyes are on the government to the implement the measures after being criticized for a general state of confusion in previous weeks.
The country has also failed to form a government capable of leading the efforts to save Lebanon from its various crises beyond the coronavirus.
The Health Ministry’s statistics show that 45,445 positive COVID-19 cases were recorded in the first 12 days of January, while 53,559 cases were recorded during the whole month of December.
Firas Al-Abyad, director of the Hariri Governmental University Hospital, said that “a large number of people in Lebanon have caught the coronavirus. This requires … people to be admitted into hospitals, which are at their maximum capacity. What scares us is that we have reached the point that we did not want to reach.”
He expected that “the number of people in need (of) intensive care will double next week, which means that we are heading toward a major disaster.”
Dr. Abdul Rahman Al-Bizri, head of the Health Ministry’s Scientific Committee on Combatting the Coronavirus Pandemic, told Arab News: “I hope that the strict total lockdown will limit the spread of the virus. However, I am afraid of going back to how things were and completely opening up the country without any measures after the lockdown is over.”
Al-Bizri is the person charged with communicating with Pfizer, on behalf of the Health Ministry, to procure its coronavirus vaccine.


Dubai restaurants offer discounts for COVID-19 vaccinated diners

Updated 25 January 2021

Dubai restaurants offer discounts for COVID-19 vaccinated diners

  • A 10 percent discount to residents who have taken the first dose of a vaccine and 20 percent for those who have taken two

DUBAI: Dubai restaurants have begun offering discounts to customers who have been inoculated against coronavirus, amid a vaccination drive as the emirate seeks to fight the pandemic without closing its doors.
The UAE says it has already vaccinated some 2.5 million of its population of about 10 million, the second highest rate globally after Israel.
“Spread love, not Rona,” say social media fliers for three restaurants run by Gates Hospitality, offerings a 10 percent discount to residents who have taken the first dose of a vaccine and 20 percent for those who have taken two.
Diners must show proof of inoculation, such as a medical certificate, to get the discount.
While some people welcomed the move, it raised eyebrows on social media.
“There’s two ways to look at it, either it’s another marketing stunt, or a genuine motivation to get more people vaccinated,” said one tweet.
The UAE, made up of seven emirates including Dubai, began mass inoculations in December after approving vaccines made by Chinese firm Sinopharm and US drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech.
Dubai’s health authority said this week it would have to scale back on vaccinations after Pfizer announced shipment delays due to works at its key plant in Belgium. The Sinopharm vaccine is still freely available.
Despite a sharp spike in cases since the New Year, Dubai is still open for tourism and restaurants and services are operating, although with rules on masking and distancing.
Over the weekend the guidelines were tightened, with the number of people allowed at social gatherings slashed from 200 to 10, and restaurants and cafes ordered to increase spacing between tables from two meters to three.
The glitzy emirate has also suspended non-essential surgery in hospitals after a surge in COVID-19 infections.
While other tourist destinations are applying tight restrictions to control the pandemic, Dubai reopened to visitors in July.