Authorities in Lebanon imposed lockdown restrictions on 79 towns with increased coronavirus disease (COVID-19) activity Oct. 19-26 in an effort to curb the spread of the disease. The affected areas include localities in Metn, Tripoli, Keserwan, Akkar, Aley, Sidon, Tyre, Zgharta, Zahle, Bint Jbeil, Baalbek, Baabda, Nabatieh, Minieh-Danniyeh, Chouf, Beqa'a, Batroun, and Byblos. Authorities had imposed lockdowns on 169 towns the previous week. Residents of the affected areas are instructed to remain at home except for essential reasons. Travel to and from the airport is permitted. All state and private institutions and places of worship will close for the duration of the measure; however, health centers and delivery services will remain operational. All social gatherings will be prohibited. The restrictions come as part of a new zonal system that authorities introduced to contain the spread of COVID-19 in locations with high infection rates. Under the system, lockdown restrictions are imposed in locations designated as "red" zones - areas with more than eight cases per 100,000 inhabitants over 14 days.
The following COVID-19-related restrictions remain in place nationwide:
- A nightly curfew is in effect 0100-0600.
- Bars and nightclubs are closed until further notice.
- A medical state of emergency is in force until Dec. 31.
- Residents must wear facemasks in public.
- Individuals and businesses that violate the country's social distancing and safety guidelines will face a fine.
Authorities have eased the following restrictions as part of the nation's economic recovery plan:
- Commercial flights at Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport (BEY) have resumed, albeit at significantly reduced capacity. Travelers at BEY must provide negative results of a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test before entering the country. Travelers from countries with high infection rates will undergo 24 to 48 hours of quarantine in designated hotels until they receive their test results. Nonresidents traveling to Lebanon are required to have a valid health insurance policy for the duration of their trip.
- Movie theaters, markets, public parks, and wedding halls have reopened. Businesses, restaurants, cafes, malls, markets, and gyms are permitted to operate at reduced capacity.
- Authorities have lifted vehicular movement restrictions.
- Public transportation has resumed nationwide, albeit with social-distancing measures and passenger limits in place.
Authorities could reimpose, extend, further ease, or otherwise amend any restrictions with little-to-no notice depending on disease activity over the coming weeks.
Background and Analysis
Lebanon's restrictions and preventive measures are similar to those enacted by other governments in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic. 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.
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.