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The New Arab Staff

Lebanon sees coronavirus spike with cases nearly tripling since Beirut blast

A spike in cases has led authorities to impose a stringent two-week partial lockdown [Getty]

Date of publication: 24 August, 2020

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A spike in cases has led authorities to impose a stringent two-week partial lockdown, warning that some hospitals treating Covid-19 patients have reached capacity.
Lebanon recorded 507 new Covid-19 cases and two deaths from the disease on Sunday, bringing the total number of cases to 12,087, an increase of 180 per cent since the deadly blast in Beirut two weeks ago. 

A spike in cases has led authorities to impose a stringent two-week partial lockdown, warning that some hospitals have reached their capacity and won't be able to accept further coronavirus patients.

The country went into lockdown on Friday, as it continues to deal with the fallout from a huge explosion in Beirut port that killed 181 people and injured thousands.

Officials fear Lebanon's fragile health system would struggle to cope with a further spike in Covid-19 cases, especially after some hospitals near the port were damaged in the explosion.

The new lockdown measures do not affect areas of the capital ravaged by the massive explosion, where clear-up and aid efforts are underway.

"We are back at square one," caretaker health minister Hamad Hassan warned on Friday after the rapid rise in infections, calling on all hospitals - public and private - to help fight the virus. 

Compliance with the measures varied across the country on the first day, the National News Agency said, but the capital's streets largely emptied cars after a 12-hour night-time curfew came into force at 6pm (3pm GMT). 

Read also: 'End of the world': Countdown to Beirut's devastating blast

Lebanon imposed a months-long lockdown from mid-March, which it gradually lifted until the airport reopened on 1 July. 

A new temporary lockdown in early August was scrapped in the wake of the explosion.

The pandemic arrived on the heels of the country's worst economic crisis in decades, which has since last year trapped people's savings in banks, sent food prices soaring, and caused tens of thousands to lose their jobs and incomes.

Even before the explosion of a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate at the port sparked popular rage against official negligence, Lebanon's crisis had doubled poverty rates to more than half of the population, according to UN estimates.

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