Lebanon doctors urge lockdown extension

·2-min read
Lebanese doctors are calling for a round-the-clock curfew imposed last Thursday to be extended to prevent hospital intensive care units being overwhelmed by a surge in Covid-19 cases

The head of Lebanon's main coronavirus hospital Tuesday backed the extension of a total lockdown to curb soaring infections and save a fragile healthcare system from collapse.

His warning came hours before the health ministry announced a new record of 61 Covid deaths in 24 hours.

"Easing the lockdown cannot occur if the virus is spreading unchecked in the community," Firas Abiad said on social media.

"The infection is not under control."

The country of more than six million has recorded 260,315 coronavirus cases and 2,020 deaths since its outbreak started in February.

It entered a strict 11-day lockdown last Thursday after recording a 70 percent uptick in infections in one of the steepest increases in transmission worldwide.

The lockdown, which includes a round-the-clock curfew, is expected to last until January 25.

But daily counts of coronavirus-related deaths have reach new records in the past two days.

This comes after Lebanon hit a new daily record of more than 6,000 new infections on Friday.

Petra Khoury of the government's Covid-19 taskforce told AFP that the duration of the lockdown needed to be doubled.

"We need at least three weeks of total lockdown" instead of just 11 days, she said.

Infections had skyrocketed after authorities loosened restrictions during the holiday season, allowing restaurants and nightclubs to open late, despite warnings from health professionals.

Hospitals have struggled to cope with the influx of new patients, with some treating cases in cars, paediatrics units and even dining halls.

The World Health Organization said Monday that the occupancy rate for intensive care beds in hospitals across Lebanon stood at 87.4 percent, down from 90.4 percent last week.

Sleiman Haroun, head of the Syndicate of Private Hospitals, said a lockdown extension was necessary.

"Medical cadres are worn out and I am alarmed over the large number of cases arriving in hospitals every day," he told AFP.