Lebanon faces tough decision on lockdown: Abiad

The coronavirus committee will meet later in the day to discuss Lebanon’s lockdown which began two weeks ago and is set to end November 30

  
Firass Abiad, director general of the Rafik Hariri University Hospital, attends an interview with Reuters in Beirut, Lebanon October 1, 2020. Picture taken October 1, 2020.

Firass Abiad, director general of the Rafik Hariri University Hospital, attends an interview with Reuters in Beirut, Lebanon October 1, 2020. Picture taken October 1, 2020.

Reuters/Issam Abdallah

BEIRUT: Head of Rafik Hariri University Hospital said Friday that the coronavirus committee will face a difficult decision on whether to lift or extend Lebanon’s lockdown as infection rates and unemployment simultaneously continue to increase.

The coronavirus committee will meet later in the day to discuss Lebanon’s lockdown which began two weeks ago and is set to end Nov. 30.

“The Covid 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. Extending the lockdown close to the holiday season without any support will be devastating,” Dr. Firass Abiad said in a series of tweets.

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 case-counts have consistently surpassed 1,000 over the last month and death rates have reached record numbers, overwhelming an already fragile health sector.

“Lebanon reported 84 deaths from Covid in the past 4 days ... This high death toll explains why health experts were very worried back then and strongly recommended a lockdown,” Abiad said.

“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 of the current situation,” Abiad explained. “The key words this afternoon will be risk reduction and economy. Poverty is as damaging to health as Covid, and the majority are financially on the brink. The decisions taken need to be balanced.”

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 depreciated by 80 percent, making basic household items and food unaffordable for many Lebanese.

The government has provided minimal financial aid to families struggling under pandemic lockdown measures and a deteriorating economy.

Lebanon confirmed a record 24 deaths due to coronavirus complications 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.

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