BEIRUT (Reuters) – President Michel Aoun declared a medical state of emergency in Lebanon on Sunday and called on people to work from home as the country steps up measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“Each of us is called upon to continue his work, from home, in the way he sees appropriate,” Aoun said in a televised address at the start of a cabinet meeting expected to declare measures to deal with the outbreak.
Lebanon, which is already hit by a deep financial crisis, said the total number of cases had reached 99. Three people have so far died.
Health officials have warned that any wider outbreak could severely strain Lebanon’s strapped medical resources after a months-long dollar shortage that has strained supplies.
Lebanon last week ordered the closure of restaurants and many public venues, and halted flights from many corona-infected countries.
In a bid to reduce potential exposure, security forces were dispatched to Beirut’s seaside corniche to disperse crowds who had come to enjoy one of the city’s few public spaces.
“We heard they are going to issue a curfew so we said let’s take advantage of the last Sunday and the sea,” said Mohamed Sabah, a film producer.
Lebanon’s banks will shut until March 29, according to Lebanese media, two days after the central bank asked commercial banks that have imposed strict capital controls to prioritise hard currency for the import of corona-related supplies.
(Reporting by Eric Knecht and Tom Perry; Editing by Edmund Blair and Alexandra Hudson)