Shops shut and streets empty as Lebanon enters strictest COVID-19 lockdown

SourceArab News

BEIRUT: It was a choice between containing a spiraling virus outbreak and resuscitating a dying economy in a country that has been in steady financial and economic meltdown over the past year. Authorities in Lebanon chose the latter. Now, virus patients struggling to breathe wait outside hospitals — hoping for a bed or a even chair to open up. Ordinary people share contact lists of oxygen suppliers on social media as the the critical gas becomes scarce, and the sound of ambulances ferrying the ill echoes through Beirut. Around 500 of Lebanon’s 14,000 doctors have left the crisis-ridden country in recent months, according to the Order of Physicians, putting a further strain on existing hospital staff. On Thursday, Lebanese authorities swung the other way: They began enforcing an 11-day nationwide shutdown and round-the-clock curfew, hoping to blunt the spread of coronavirus infections spinning out of control after the holiday period. The curfew is the strictest measure Lebanon has taken since the start of the pandemic. Previous shutdowns had laxer rules and were poorly enforced.

Now, residents cannot leave their homes, except for a defined set of reasons, including going to the bakery, pharmacy, doctor’s office, hospital or airport — and for the more...