May 12, 2020 / 12:35 PM / 17 days ago

Lebanon, fearing second virus wave, to shut down again for four days

FILE PHOTO: People walk and a man rides a bicycle along Beirut's seaside Corniche, as Lebanese authorities warned of a new wave of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as the numbers jumped to the highest point in more than a month, after the government eased some restrictions on public life, in Beirut, Lebanon May 10, 2020. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon’s government has ordered most of the country to shut down again for four days, starting on Wednesday night, as it seeks to ward off a coronavirus resurgence after easing some restrictions.

The country has been under lockdown since mid-March to rein in an outbreak that has infected 870 people and killed 26. Lebanon started lifting restrictions last week as part of a longer-term plan, letting restaurants, hair salons, construction sites and others re-open at lower capacity.

But the cabinet agreed on Tuesday on the “full closure” for four days to curb a rise in new infections in recent days, after a drop in cases which the government had hailed as a success.

“This achievement is at risk of collapsing” because some people did not comply with the guidelines, Prime Minister Hassan Diab was quoted as saying during the meeting.

Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad said the four-day closure, which excludes supermarkets and pharmacies, would also allow teams from the health ministry to conduct more testing.

She added that the government would re-evaluate its original five-stage plan for gradually reopening the economy.

Beirut airport has been closed for nearly two months, except for flights bringing thousands of expatriates home, adding to the rise in infections.

The lockdown already includes an overnight curfew, with security forces patrolling some streets.

The pandemic has compounded woes in Lebanon, which was already wrestling with a financial crisis that has slashed more than half the value of its currency since late last year.

Reporting by Ellen Francis; Editing by Alison Williams and Nick Macfie

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