March 21, 2020 / 6:37 PM / 18 days ago

Lebanon PM orders security forces to enforce virus curbs

FILE PHOTO: Hassan Diab talks to the media after being named Lebanon's new prime minister, at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon December 19, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir//File Photo

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab asked the security forces on Saturday to enforce stricter measures to keep people at home and prevent gatherings to rein in the coronavirus outbreak.

In an address to the nation, Diab said this would include patrols and checkpoints.

He called on the Lebanese to go out only if absolutely necessary and warned that the rising number of infections “foreshadows an imminent danger threatening society.”

The health ministry recorded on Saturday a 29% rise in cases from the day before, bringing the total to 230, Diab said. Four people have died in the past month.

Lebanon’s government declared a medical state of emergency earlier this week and ordered most of the country closed, including the airport.

Experts warn the country’s healthcare system is ill-prepared, as a financial crisis and dollar shortages have for months drained it of critical supplies.

“The interior ministry and army command ... will announce binding plans that will protect the health of the Lebanese,” Diab said on Saturday. “It is a very difficult and tough period. Let us reduce our losses.”

Reporting by Ellen Francis; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Daniel Wallis

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