200827 Lebanon
A volunteer sorts aid at a volunteer base camp that was set up to lead relief and rehabilitation in the aftermath of a massive explosion in Beirut port, Lebanon, August 17, 2020. Image Credit: Reuters

Abu Dhabi: Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab said on Wednesday the country was at risk of losing control over the coronavirus outbreak after a spike in the number of cases following the massive explosion in Beirut on August 4.

“The number of cases is increasing greatly, and if this continues, we will lose control of this epidemic,” Diab was cited as saying in a statement issued by the Supreme Defence Council.

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The council decided during the meeting maintain the state of health emergency until the end of the year.

Cases doubled in the two weeks following the blast as infections spread in hospitals where victims were being treated, medics say.

Lebanon registered 557 new COVID-19 infections and one death on Wednesday. It registered a record 12 deaths the previous day.

The health minister for Lebanon’s caretaker government, Hamad Hassan, who also spoke to the Council, said hospital capacity needed to be increased to help combat the rise in cases.

The government imposed a partial lockdown last Friday to help fight community spread. But the shutdown, which includes a curfew from 6pm to 6am, still allows for clearing rubble, making repairs and giving out aid in neighbourhoods damaged by the explosion. The airport will remain open, with travellers having to take PCR tests before boarding and on arrival in the country.

Amid concerns over the rise in cases, the union representing hotels, bars, cafes and restaurants said it would encourage defiance of the curfew by its members, leading to criticism by caretaker Interior Minister Mohammed Fahmi, who said security forces would crack down. A popular food delivery app said it would restart deliveries until 11pm.