Search
Search

Coronavirus

Two weeks into the strict lockdown, hospitals see no respite from the post-holiday COVID-19 surge

Two weeks into the strict lockdown, hospitals see no respite from the post-holiday COVID-19 surge

Nationwide, ICU capacity was at 93.3 percent on Thursday. (Credit: Hussam Shbaro)

BEIRUT — Two weeks into Lebanon’s strict COVID-19 lockdown, which has sparked anger on the streets of Tripoli, hospitals are still straining under the pressure of a surge that has killed 1,155 since New Year’s Day.

On Thursday, Lebanon recorded 68 more fatalities from the virus and 3,497 new infections, with 938 COVID-19 patients in ICUs across the country. 

Nationwide, ICU capacity was at 93.3 percent, according to the World Health Organization’s latest statistics. Nabatieh’s hospitals were at full capacity, while ICUs in Beirut were just shy of being full.

“We’re still overwhelmed,” Pierre Bou Khalil, the head of pulmonary and critical care at the American University of Beirut Medical Center, told L’Orient Today.

“We still have a large number of patients in the emergency room. Some patients have been there for days on end,” the doctor said.

Bou Khalil cautioned that while the number of new COVID-19 cases appears to have slowed down, it has “yet to make a dent in the number of new patients staying overnight in the ER.” Core data substantiating any downward trend in numbers is still lacking, he added.

“Severe cases are here with us to stay, and mortality will keep increasing for the next week or so,” he said.

Doctors outside the capital stressed the importance of compliance with the lockdown, which is tentatively set to end Feb. 8. Protests have erupted against the shutdown and the state’s failure to provide aid to the vulnerable, with a demonstrator dying today after being shot by security forces last night in Tripoli.

Elie Gharios, the medical director of Mount Lebanon Hospital in Hazmieh, Baabda, said that his staff fears that if the lockdown stops, “everything will go higher.”

At present, he said, many people who were infected with COVID-19 at the beginning of the nationwide shutdown on Jan. 14 are now being hospitalized.

Mount Lebanon Hospital continues to admit patients, including ones in severe condition, at a steady rate, Gharios said, noting the country has entered a waiting period regarding the effects of the now 2-week-old total restriction on non-essential activity across the country.

In Nabatieh, the lockdown has not been abided by like in other places in Lebanon, according to the director of the Nabih Berri Governmental University Hospital.

Hassan Wazni told L’Orient Today that he hopes people will take more precautions, but added that he is not optimistic.

“Every day, every night, we have several patients waiting in the ER,” the doctor said, adding that in seven to 10 days his facility would boost its capacity with the opening of a new COVID-19 ward with approximately 30 beds.

As protesters take to the streets to decry the lockdown measures and state failures to secure social safety nets, and hospitals continue to be overwhelmed, vaccines offer a light at the end of a tunnel — but that tunnel appears set to be a long one.

Originally slated to go online Monday, the Health Ministry on Thursday launched the country’s COVID-19 vaccination registration platform. While Lebanon’s vaccination program seeks to inoculate 70 percent of the population by year’s end, the country has yet to secure enough vaccines for this goal.

A contract with pharma giant Pfizer will supply Lebanon with 2.1 million doses by the end of December, enough to cover a little over 1 million residents. Lebanon also secured 2.7 million doses from the World Health Organization’s COVAX platform, with a delivery schedule yet to be determined.

Talks are underway with other potential suppliers, including Europe’s AstraZeneca.


BEIRUT — Two weeks into Lebanon’s strict COVID-19 lockdown, which has sparked anger on the streets of Tripoli, hospitals are still straining under the pressure of a surge that has killed 1,155 since New Year’s Day.On Thursday, Lebanon recorded 68 more fatalities from the virus and 3,497 new infections, with 938 COVID-19 patients in ICUs across the country. Nationwide, ICU...