Lebanese Army Uses Helicopters to Ask Citizens to Stay Home


The army was on Sunday staging patrols across Lebanon and using helicopters over many areas to ask citizens to stay home and respect a lockdown declared by the government over coronavirus.

Army helicopters hovered over Beirut, the Bekaa, Keserwan, Upper Metn and Aley, according to the National News Agency and other reports.

On the ground, army troops and security forces intensified their patrols to ensure non-essential shops and institutions are shuttered and people are not gathering in groups or moving around for non-urgent matters.

In a televised address on Saturday, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the number of cases had risen to 230 in the country despite a call almost a week ago for all to remain at home.

Warning of a further spike to epidemic levels if people continued to flout social distancing rules, he said the government was calling in the army and security forces.

His government decided to "task the army, Internal Security Forces, General Security and State Security to... implement the order for citizens not to leave their homes, except out of extreme necessity, and prevent gatherings contravening" the order, Diab said.

This would take the form of patrols and checkpoints, and those found disobeying would be pursued.

Diab again called on all Lebanese to observe a self-imposed curfew, "as the state cannot face this creeping epidemic on its own."

Last Sunday, the government ordered all people to stay at home and all non-essential businesses to close.

The airport has been shut since Wednesday.

The COVID-19 pandemic is the latest crisis to hit the country, already reeling from a financial meltdown and months of widespread public discontent.

Officials fear the local health system would struggle to cope if cases dramatically increase.

Earlier on Saturday, police patrolled several areas of the capital Beirut, using loudspeakers to call bystanders to go home.

On the seafront, they pursued and flagged down joggers, pleading with them to head back indoors.

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