BEIRUT: Lebanon went under a full lockdown Thursday, in an unprecedented move, and shut down its land borders, airport and seaports amid a fight against the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport was seen completely empty, without its usual hustle and bustle Wednesday at midnight, as Lebanon continued its face-off against the pandemic.
The airport was photographed empty, with lights dimmed down, void of passengers and screens showing all flights as “cancelled.”
Cabinet announced Sunday night that the airport, along with land borders and seaports would be shut down from March 18 until March 29 as a measure to contain the coronavirus, which has so far infected 149 people in Lebanon, and killed four.
However UNIFIL, diplomatic missions and cargo aircraft are exempt from this decision.
The last time the airport was shut down for a lengthy period was in the summer of 2006 during the Lebanon-Israel war, and it was re-opened in September of that year.
Lebanon was described by President Michel Aoun Sunday to be in a “health emergency” and Cabinet later announced that the country would be in a state of “general mobilization” in an effort to fight the spread of coronavirus.
The head of Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport Fadi al-Hasan told radio station Voice of Lebanon Thursday morning that the situation would be re-evaluated after March 29 and after that, the airport would either reopen or its closure would be extended.
He noted that as Lebanon has completely shut down its airport, other countries around the world haven’t taken this step yet.
Middle East Airlines Chairman Mohammad Hout told broadcaster LBCI Thursday that the airline would “surpass this phase” and that “despite all the challenges, MEA will be receiving new airplanes.”
A General Security source told The Daily Star that all land borders were closed down Wednesday at midnight in accordance with the Cabinet’s decision.
The source also said that there wasn’t any unusual traffic Wednesday, the last day before the shutdown came into effect.
The head of the Tripoli port, Ahmed Tamer, told The Daily Star that as of Wednesday night any travel to and from the port had been halted.
However, cargo shipments are still allowed, as per the Cabinet's decision, and those shipments include food and medical supplies.
"We have shipping lines with countries all over the world," said Tamer, and added that Lebanon was receiving products from various countries, including China.
He also said that Lebanon was receiving oxygen supplies used by hospitals from Turkey, for example.
The head of the Tripoli port also said that all administration employees and workers have followed precautionary guidelines against the coronavirus and that no one is allowed to enter the port without having medical masks on, and after security officials have checked their temperature.