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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Lebanon doctors urge lockdown extension

Lebanese medics are worried about cases rising after lockdown ends [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 January, 2021

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Lebanon's top medics dealing with the coronavirus pandemic have urged an extension of the lockdown, which will last until the last week of January.

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

"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 255,956 coronavirus cases and 1,959 deaths since its outbreak started in February.

It entered a strict 11-day lockdown last Thursday after recording a 70% 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 the health ministry on Monday announced a new high of 53 coronavirus deaths in a day.

This came 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 per cent, down from 90.4 per cent 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.

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