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Lebanese health workers warn of COVID ‘catastrophe’ as cases rise | News on the coronavirus pandemic

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The occupancy rate of intensive care units climbs to 90% after authorities relaxed the curfew before the holiday season.

Lebanese hospitals are inundated with coronavirus cases, doctors warn, as infection rates rise after the year-end vacation.

The national COVID-19 task force was due to meet later on Saturday and is expected to advise a three-week lockdown, said Petra Khoury, its leader.

Lebanon, with a population of around six million, has recorded 183,888 coronavirus cases, including 1,466 deaths, since February.

On Thursday, it hit a daily record of more than 3,500 new cases.

In what he called a “catastrophic” situation, Sleiman Haroun, head of the Syndicate of Private Hospitals, said that “the 50 private hospitals in the country receiving patients with Covid-19 are now almost full”.

They have a total of 850 beds, including 300 in intensive care units, Haroun said. “Patients are now lining up … waiting for a bed to be free,” he told AFP news agency.

After imposing tighter restrictions in November to combat the spread of the pandemic, the government relaxed rules ahead of the December break by pushing back a nighttime curfew to 3 a.m. and allowing nightclubs to reopen and bars.

The move drew criticism from medical professionals who warned that the bed occupancy rate in intensive care units was extremely low.

“The problem is, once a patient is admitted to intensive care, they stay there for three weeks,” Khoury said.

The “private gatherings and parties” over the December holiday season fueled a dramatic increase in cases, Khoury said.

“Over the past three weeks, the occupancy rate of intensive care units has increased by 10 percent,” pushing the occupancy rate of hospital beds in Beirut to over 90 percent of capacity.

“Several hospitals have asked us not to transfer patients to them,” Lebanese Red Cross president Georges Kettaneh told AFP.

Instead, the Red Cross took patients to Bekaa in the east or Nabatiyeh in the south.

Lebanon expects to receive its first shipment of coronavirus vaccines in February from Pfizer-BioNTech.

The country is grappling with its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

The Lebanese pound has lost more than two-thirds of its value against the dollar on the black market, causing prices to soar.

More than half of the population is trapped in poverty, according to the United Nations.

Beirut was also hit by an explosion on August 4 in its port that killed more than 200 people and devastated parts of the capital.



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