- So far, 870 Lebanese have tested positive for the coronavirus (as of the evening of May 12, 2020). Of them, 234 have recovered and 26 have died. As of today, there are 610 active cases, three in serious or critical condition. To date 53,269 tests to detect the virus have been administered, and 5,353 people are quarantined (websites of the Lebanese ministries of health and information, May 13, 2020).
Until recently the number of reported cases was stable and it seemed that the spread of the disease was under control. Even locations that were potential hotspots, such as the Palestinian refugee camps, reported only isolated cases. However, this past week there was a rise in the number of infections detected, raising concern over a second outbreak, and prompting the Lebanese government to impose a four-day general lockdown on the entire country.
Fear of a second outbreak
- Between May 8 and 11, 2020, 109 new cases of COVID-19 were detected in Lebanon. The number is relatively high compared with preceding weeks, when days went by with no cases or only isolated cases detected (al-Binaa, May 12, 2020). The graph of daily infection below shows a rise in the number of cases since May 6, 2020, particularly on May 7 and 10. The statistics have been unstable since May 6. However, according to reports from the Lebanese ministry of information, a relatively larger number of tests were administered on May 6, 8 and 12, apparently out of concern over a renewed outbreak.
COVID-19 infections detected in Lebanon between April 30 and May 11, 2020
(website of the Lebanese ministry of information, May 13, 2020)
- Dr. Hamad Hasan, Lebanese minister of health, said the exaggerated relaxation [of following public health guidelines] and the lack of civilian responsibility, as manifested in the public behavior over the last few days, were behind the potentially disastrous rise in the number of coronavirus infections (interview conducted by al-Joumhouriya, Lebanon, quoted by Radio al-Nur, May 11, 2020). On May 12, 2020, Dr. Assem Araji, member of the Lebanese parliament and chair of its health committee, spoke about the public’s scoffing at the guidelines put in place to protect them from the coronavirus. He said, “Lebanese have to fully understand, for example, that there are 1,300 ventilators and we will not be able use more than half of them for COVID-19 patients if the virus spreads quickly.” He added that “We will be able to contain a large number of cases for one month only, and after that the public health system will collapse” (al-Nashra, Lebanon, May 12, 2020). At a Lebanese government meeting, Lebanese president Michel Aoun said that measures against the spread of the virus had to be enforced more strictly because of the rise in the number of cases in recent days (al-Nashra, May 12, 2020).
- In view of the above, at noon on May 12, 2020, the Lebanese government decided to impose a general four-day lockdown on the entire country. It was scheduled to begin on the evening of Wednesday, May 13, and continue until the morning of May 18. Its objective is to enable public health teams to test, monitor and quickly isolate all new COVID-19 cases. Exceptions to the lockdown are hospitals and medical centers, as well as the food, industrial and agricultural sectors. In addition, the government instructed the security forces to enforce preventive measures more strongly (social distancing, wearing masks, etc.) and called on the public to follow the guidelines (al-Binaa, al-Nashra, May 12, 2020).
Hezbollah activity to cope with COVID-19
- Hezbollah made preparations to cope with the virus with its own separate program directed mainly towards the Shi’ite population in the areas under its influence (south Lebanon, the Beqa’a Valley and southern Beirut). In recent weeks no significant changes were noted in the program, and most of the organization’s civilian activity is currently focused on Ramadan events.
The situation in the Palestinian refugee camps
- The number of reported active cases of COVID-19 in the al-Jalil refugee camp (near Baalbek) has risen to six, reportedly all in stable condition. One woman recovered and was discharged, and was received by fellow camp residents with mass festivities, during which there was no social distancing and no mask wearing. However, so far no cases of the disease were reported in other refugee camps (Safa, May 6, 2020; the Facebook page of the al-Badawi refugee camp, May 6, 2020, al-Jazeera, May 10, 2020).
Picture from the video of the reception held by the residents of the al-Jalil refugee camp for a fellow resident who had recovered from COVID-19 (Facebook page of the
al-Badawi refugee camp, May 6, 2020).
- Following the general rise in the number of cases in Lebanon, on May 11, 2020, UNRWA warned that guidelines were not being carefully implemented and preventive measures were being disregarded in several refugee camps in Lebanon. UNRWA also warned of a possible second wave of infections, and asked that the resident of the refugee camps wear masks, practice social distancing and take all other necessary precautions (Palestinian refugee portal, May 11, 2020).
 For further information see the April 1, 2020 bulletin, "Hezbollah’s coping with COVID-19: A test case of the conduct of the mini-state established by Hezbollah in Lebanon." ↑
 For further information see the April 12, 2020 bulletin, "The fight against the spread of COVID19 in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon." ↑