The new restrictions were only loosely respected in some areas of the country, however, reflecting deep mistrust of a political elite held responsible for a deepening economic crisis.
Lebanon went into a tight lockdown Thursday, with residents barred even from grocery shopping and forced to rely on food deliveries as the country battles to slow spiking novel coronavirus cases.
The lockdown, ordered after some hospitals started to run out of intensive care beds, includes a 24-hour curfew until January 25.
Non-essential workers are barred from leaving their homes, and supermarkets are only allowed to operate by delivery.
Those needing an emergency exemption — to see a doctor, say — can request one via a text message or by filling in a form online.
In the capital, roads were quieter than usual, while non-essential shops remained shuttered. Security forces stopped drivers at several checkpoints in the centre of the city.
Security forces said compliance with the new measures stood at 94 percent.
But in some areas, some people ventured out to buy groceries.
As the lockdown went into force, authorities announced Thursday that 41 people had died of the coronavirus over the previous 24 hours, with 5,196 new infections registered.
– Heart attacks –
Recent days have seen Lebanon hit record daily Covid-19 caseloads in one of the steepest increases in transmission worldwide.
In Geitawi Hospital in Beirut on Thursday, director Pierre Yared said the emergencies department was brimming over with more than 30 people suffering from Covid-19 the previous day.
“The ER was filled with corona patients, there were no other patients,” he said.
Cases skyrocketed after authorities loosened restrictions during the holiday season, allowing restaurants and night clubs to remain open until 3:00 am, despite warnings from health professionals.
A partial lockdown in place since January 7 has failed to halt the spread of the virus.
Firass Abiad, the prominent director of the main state hospital treating Covid patients, warned the latest lockdown must not fail.
“In the last 24 hours alone, four Covid positive patients presented in cardiac arrest to our emergency room,” he wrote on Twitter.
“One of them was a 19 years old patient. This is serious.”
The new measures came into effect after caretaker health minister Hamad Hasan was admitted to hospital with Covid-19 late Wednesday, state media said.
The announcement on Monday raised fears of food shortages in impoverished and remote regions where deliveries are not readily available.
For several days, Lebanese have flooded supermarkets and chemists to stock up on supplies.
Some are worried the new restrictions will pile additional suffering on the country’s poorest.