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Lebanon warns it could ‘lose control’ of coronavirus outbreak

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Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab said on Wednesday that Lebanon was at risk of losing control over the coronavirus outbreak after a rise in the number of cases following the explosion in Beirut on Aug 4.

Cases doubled in the two weeks following the blast as infections spread in hospitals where victims were being treated, medics say.

“The number of cases is increasing greatly, and if this continues, we will lose control of this epidemic,” Diab said in a statement issued by the Supreme Defence Council.

A view of damages in Beirut port, Lebanon, 25 August 2020. EPA-EFE/NABIL MOUNZER

Lebanon registered 557 new COVID-19 infections and one death on Wednesday. It had registered a record 12 deaths the previous day.

The health minister for Lebanon’s caretaker government, Hamad Hassan, who also spoke to the Council, said hospital capacity needed to be increased to help combat the rise in cases.

The government imposed a partial lockdown last Friday to help fight community spread. But the shutdown, which includes a curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., still allows for clearing rubble, making repairs and giving out aid in neighbourhoods damaged by the explosion. The airport will remain open, with travellers having to take PCR tests before boarding and on arriving in the country.

Amid concerns over the rise in cases, the union representing hotels, bars, cafes and restaurants said it would encourage defiance of the curfew by its members, leading to criticism by caretaker Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi, who said security forces would crack down. A popular food delivery app said it would restart deliveries until 11 p.m.

On Wednesday, caretaker President Michel Aoun said the government’s coronavirus committee was discussing how to safely reopen businesses given their vital importance to the economy.

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