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Lebanon records 82 more coronavirus deaths as the country awaits a decision Friday on extending its strict lockdown

Lebanon records 82 more coronavirus deaths as the country awaits a decision Friday on extending its strict lockdown

Health officials have warned that the lockdown must either be extended or gradually lifted in order to retain the benefits of any progress made. (Credit: Hussam Shbaro)

BEIRUT — With Lebanese officials set to make a decision tomorrow on extending an around-the-clock lockdown for a second time, coronavirus deaths continued to mount with 82 fatalities recorded across the country in the past 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 3,397.

Head of Rafik Hariri University Hospital Firass Abiad told L’Orient Today that he expects there to be two opposing views during the COVID-19 ministerial committee meeting on Friday to decide on the nature of Lebanon’s lockdown moving forward.

“There will be people arguing that three weeks [of lockdown] is enough and that people won’t be able to tolerate an extension and that they are economically on the edge,” said Abiad, who sits on the national committee for COVID-19, which advises the ministerial committee

“At the same time, there will be others who just as forcefully argue that [coronavirus case] numbers are not good and that if we open up when numbers are this high, we’re just asking to continue the spread of the virus,” he said.

The nearly one-month-long lockdown and 24-hour curfew is expected to end on Feb. 8. The lockdown, which was implemented Jan. 11 was initially set to be relaxed on Jan. 25 but was extended to curb the most dangerous surge of the coronavirus infection Lebanon has witnessed to date.

The surge has been blamed on officials’ decision to lift most lockdown measures over the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

Lebanon’s Health Ministry recorded 3,107 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday. Countrywide, 914 ICU beds were occupied.

In RHUH, the 54-bed ICU is at capacity, with several patients also waiting in the emergency room for beds to empty.

“What I expect is for there to be an incremental lifting of lockdown measures … However, who also expected things to be opened up over Christmas and New Year’s?” Abiad said.

“Sometimes we are surprised. We give recommendations, but remember that at the end of the day the ultimate decision lies with the politicians,” Abiad explained.

While daily coronavirus case numbers appear to be slightly declining, Lebanon saw two consecutive days of record-breaking deaths Tuesday and Wednesday, amounting to a total of 170 fatalities in 48 hours.

Health officials have warned that the lockdown must either be extended or gradually lifted in order to retain the benefits of any progress made in the last few weeks.

Lockdown has forced business across the countries to close amid the worst economic crisis the country has witnessed in decades. Supermarkets and restaurants have been permitted to deliver food before 5 p.m.

When asked whether he thought lockdown should be extended, Abiad stopped short of giving his opinion, saying that the positivity rate in today’s Health Ministry report would help inform his decision ahead of tomorrow’ meeting.

Thursday’s positivity rate was recorded at 22.2 percent.

“If the positivity rate is high … then I’ll be more inclined towards extending the lockdown,” said Abiad.


Correction: This article originally reported that Firass Abiad sits on the COVID-19 ministerial committee. He sits on the national committee for COVID-19, which advises the ministerial committee. L'Orient Today regrets the error.


BEIRUT — With Lebanese officials set to make a decision tomorrow on extending an around-the-clock lockdown for a second time, coronavirus deaths continued to mount with 82 fatalities recorded across the country in the past 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 3,397.Head of Rafik Hariri University Hospital Firass Abiad told L’Orient Today that he expects there to be two opposing views...