BEIRUT: Life edged closer to its normal pace in Lebanon Monday as more establishments were allowed to reopen and curfew hours were drastically reduced with COVID-19 cases remaining relatively stable.
Streets were busy as more people resumed working from their offices, after having worked from home for the last three months.
The Interior Ministry's instructions to ease coronavirus restrictions kicked in Monday morning, with malls, which were previously banned from opening due to the high probability of overcrowdedness, reopening their doors in addition to museums.
Malls were fairly empty on their first day back in business, as some shoppers walked around cautiously with coronavirus prevention measures in place.
One woman told local TV channel Al-Jadeed that not many people could afford to buy things now, but were visiting malls to window shop and keep themselves busy, as Lebanon's economic woes and the national currency devaluation have drastically reduced purchasing power.
The Interior Ministry’s latest memo also ordered curfew hours to be reduced, allowing citizens to be out and about until midnight, a notable change to the previously set 7 p.m. curfew.
Residents welcomed this decision, as many found it difficult to navigate their daily lives with the previous rules.
“I’m excited to get a drink with friends after work like we used to, and I’m happy that businesses get to open longer so they can make some money,” Leila, 32, told The Daily Star.
“It’s not going to feel like it did before COVID-19, but we obviously still need to be cautious and careful because [the number of cases is] still growing,” she added.
As the country entered a phase of relaxed measures, head of the Rafik Hariri University Hospital Firas Abiad, called on the authorities, businesses, communities and individuals to make necessary adjustments to face the virus.
“People feel fatigued. They are social beings, and want their life back even if social distancing rules are flaunted,” he added.
Health Minister Hamad Hasan also called on the Lebanese people to follow preventive measures against COVID-19.
“These measures [to lift restrictions] were taken because the internal data is good, even though we have an increase in the number of infections,” Hasan told local newspaper Al-Joumhouria in an interview published Monday, noting that most of the cases were among repatriates.
The health minister reaffirmed the importance of wearing masks as an essential part of the battle against the spread of the virus.
Lebanon Sunday recorded 29 new coronavirus cases and one death, an increase in the number of cases compared to previous days, while the Interior Ministry issued a decision to allow the reopening of previously closed establishments.
The awareness and behavior of the Lebanese population is what prompted the government to take these bold steps.
“But what is important is for the returnees to commit to quarantine,” he said, adding that the local population should also continue to follow preventive measures in order for Lebanon to maintain its low number of infections.
In the event that local transmissions increase, these relaxed measures will be reconsidered, the health minister added.
Hasan also noted that the number of COVID-19 cases had decreased in the village of Majdal Anjar in Bekaa, after a spike in cases was recorded there last week prompting the enforcement of a total lockdown.
Lebanon is currently under a state of general mobilization, announced by the government in mid-March, and various sectors have been gradually reopening since the beginning of May. The tally of coronavirus cases stands at 1,233 and 27 deaths.