Health Minister Hamad Hasan said on Friday that Lebanon would open up on Monday despite the failure of a two-week lockdown to halt a surge in coronavirus cases in the country.
“Despite no positive results, the country will be open up on Monday,” Hasan said as quoted by the LBCI. “I was expecting a more positive result from the lockdown to build on.”
Hasan announced the end of the lockdown during a live televised speech shortly after the coronavirus committee met to discuss Lebanon’s lockdown, which began two weeks ago and is set to end on November 30.
Earlier in the day, the Head of Rafik Hariri University Hospital, Dr. Firass Abiad, said that the coronavirus committee faced a difficult decision on whether to lift or extend Lebanon’s lockdown as infection rates and unemployment simultaneously continue to increase.
“The COVID-19 committee will face hard choices on the lockdown in its meeting today. The business sectors are also reporting record numbers of job losses and closures,” he said in a series of tweets.
“Extending the lockdown close to the holiday season without any support will be devastating,” he added.
Lebanon is currently battling a tricky situation. An extension of the lockdown would mean that restaurants, cafes, and businesses across the country would continue to close their doors, losing more money during the worst economic crisis Lebanon has witnessed in decades.
On the other hand, daily coronavirus cases have consistently surpassed 1,000 over the last month and death rates are increasing day by day, overwhelming an already fragile health sector.
Dr. Abiad explained that, from the perspective of health experts, easing the lockdown despite high numbers, specifically the high test positivity rate and the number of patients in ICU, can only result in worsening the current situation.
“The key words this afternoon will be risk reduction and economy. Poverty is as damaging to health as COVID-19, and the majority are financially on the brink. The decisions taken need to be balanced.” Abiad noted.
The Economy Ministry estimates that over 60 percent of the population will be living below the poverty line by the end of the year. The national currency has deteriorated by 80 percent, making basic household items and food unaffordable for many Lebanese.
The Lebanese government has provided only a small amount of financial aid to families struggling under pandemic lockdown measures and a crippling economy.
Lebanon confirmed a record of 24 deaths due to coronavirus complications on Thursday, the second death rate record set this week.
The Health Ministry reported 1,859 new coronavirus cases over the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of registered cases to 122,159 since February.
Details were not made public on what the measures will look like for the country’s latest attempt at re-opening.
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