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Normal life slowly returns to Lebanon as infections dwindle

The government announced on Sunday that restrictions would be eased this week [AFP]

Date of publication: 2 June, 2020

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The government announced on Sunday that restrictions would be eased this week, including a curfew which has been pushed back from 7pm to midnight.
Streets were busy across Lebanon on Monday as more businesses reopened and people began to return to their offices, following weeks of lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.

The government announced on Sunday that restrictions would be eased this week, including a curfew which has been pushed back from 7pm to midnight.

Beirut said shopping centres and museums could now open, after having been previously forced to shut to avoid overcrowding.

On Monday, shopping centres were relatively quiet as shoppers remained cautious, local media reported.

One woman told local TV channel Al-Jadeed that many could no longer afford to buy new things, after lockdown compounded Lebanon's already dire economic situation.

Many believe that the coming days of opening up will begin to reveal the extent of the damage caused to businesses across the country.

The government of Lebanon, which defaulted on its debt earlier this year, is currently negotiating the terms of possible financial assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The public health sector itself was in deep crisis even before the pandemic broke out but early confinement measures have so far successfully contained the spread of the virus.

Residents on Monday welcomed the reduced curfew hours, which allowed them to stay out until midnight. 

"I'm excited to get a drink with friends after work like we used to, and I'm happy that businesses get to open longer so they can make some money," one resident told Lebanon's The Daily Star.

"It's not going to feel like it did before COVID-19, but we obviously still need to be cautious and careful because [the number of cases is] still growing," she added. 

Read also: 'From Beirut to Minneapolis': Lebanese activists release 'protest guide' for US demonstrators

Lebanon's health minister urged citizens to continue to follow preventive measures, which include wearing masks when in public. 

"I think the worst-case scenario has passed and is behind us, but at the same time we need to stay alert and we are taking measures in all regions," Hassan told AFP.

"It's still early to announce a victory but we have scored points against the virus and we won't relinquish our lead," Hassan added.

The country of 6 million has recorded a remarkably low number of cases and the official death toll is around ten times lower than some countries with roughly the same population such as Israel, Norway or the UAE.

According to figures provided by the health ministry, Lebanon has recorded 1,233 Covid-19 cases since the start of the pandemic and only 27 deaths.

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