BEIRUT: Lebanon Thursday extended the current total lockdown until Feb. 8 as daily COVID-19 infections and death rates remain high.

The decision was announced in a decree signed by both caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab and President Michel Aoun. Meanwhile the Higher Defense Council is in an emergency session to discuss the details of the lockdown, the measures to be taken to help the struggling health care sector and security procedures during the additional two weeks of the lockdown, originally set to expire Monday.

Aoun at the start of the session said adherence to the lockdown was high despite some violations that needed to be tackled.

Diab for his part said the government was seeking to increase the number of coronavirus ICU beds in hospitals, and also that the electronic platform where people could request exemptions would remain operational.

The ministerial coronavirus committee Wednesday issued a recommendation to extend the lockdown for another two weeks as the number of infections remains high and hospitals still struggle with facing the virus as they run out of capacity.

During the committee's meeting, Diab also asked the caretaker health minister to speed up the development of the vaccination plan, the post-lockdown strategy and a plan to tackle the new coronavirus strain that spreads much faster than the original strain, and which is present among the local population.

Indeed, without a clear post-lockdown policy, cases will surge again and another lockdown will be necessary, continuing the same trend witnessed over the past year fueled by inexistent or inefficient government strategies.

The lockdown is set to remain a stringent one with an all-day curfew in place and very little exceptions granted with regards to when people can move around and which sectors can open.

However, it remains to be seen if some of the measures will be amended as the issue of the closure of supermarkets and grocery stores for in-person shopping has sparked outrage from owners as they are unable to cope with the influx of delivery requests coming in during the lockdown, leaving customers aggravated.

Lebanon Wednesday registered a new daily record for coronavirus-related deaths at 64 fatalities and more than 4,000 cases with the positivity rate exceeding 20 percent, an extremely high rate for a country like Lebanon.

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