Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Air France to resume flights to and from Beirut, Lebanon, beginning June 12 amid a phased easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

This alert affects Lebanon

This alert began 19 May 2020 21:15 GMT and is scheduled to expire 30 Jun 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Event: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Significant business and travel disruptions; increased security

Summary
Air France (AF) announced May 19 that it plans to resume flights to and from Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport (BEY) beginning June 12. Operations at BEY, regional airports, and all seaports have been suspended since March 18 as part of the country's efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19); the closures do not apply to UN, diplomatic, and cargo flights.

Lebanese authorities have approved a phased easing of COVID-19-related restrictions from April 27 through June 8 to allow for the gradual resumption of economic activities. Public transportation has resumed with safe-distancing measures and passenger limits. Various businesses including restaurants, factories, hair salons, retail shops, and food markets have been permitted to reopen at reduced capacity and with restrictions on their hours of operation. Authorities plan to reopen schools, universities, malls, and shopping centers beginning May 25, followed by tourist sites, gyms, entertainment venues, places of worship, and airports beginning June 8.

The existing nationwide lockdown remains in effect through at least May 24. A nightly 1900-0500 curfew is in effect, and nonessential travel is banned nationwide. Banks have limited operating hours. Vehicular travel restrictions remain in place nationwide until further notice. Vehicles with license plates ending in odd numbers may be driven on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; the use of vehicles with license plates ending in even numbers or zero is restricted to Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. No vehicles may be driven on Sundays. Diplomatic, military, and security vehicles are exempt from the measure, as are vehicles used by employees of essential institutions, such as medical personnel and journalists.

Military and security forces have deployed in cities nationwide to enforce these measures. Demonstrations and gatherings of any type remain banned. Authorities may reimpose restrictions in the coming weeks depending on the evolution of disease activity. Lebanese authorities previously re-imposed a nationwide curfew in mid-May due to an increase in COVID-19 cases after the government began to gradually ease restrictions. During that lockdown, residents were only permitted to leave their homes for essential needs, such as purchasing food and medicine or seeking medical assistance. All non-essential businesses closed.

Background and Analysis
Lebanon's travel restrictions and preventive measures are similar to actions other governments are taking globally in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Advice
Follow all official instructions. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm all travel arrangements. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Plan for queues and delays at available shopping centers.

Exercise basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.


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