May 5, 2020 / 8:27 AM / 22 days ago

Lebanon extends virus shutdown, PM warns of second wave

People wearing protective face masks ride on bicycles as Lebanon begins to ease nationwide lockdown due to spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Beirut's seaside Corniche, Lebanon May 4, 2020. REUTERS/Aziz Taher

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon extended its coronavirus lockdown by two weeks on Tuesday with the prime minister warning that failure to comply with a gradual easing of curbs risked a second wave of infections.

Lebanon has recorded 741 cases of the novel coronavirus and 25 deaths. The government started to ease some restrictions this week, allowing restaurants to open but at only 30% of capacity.

In an apparent reference to low rates of infection, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the general assessment was “excellent”.

But he also told a meeting of the country’s supreme defence council that “citizens did not comply with the restrictions and measures that are being gradually reduced”.

This “could reflect negatively on the spread of the virus and there is a fear of a second wave which could be much harder than the first”, he said, according to a statement issued after the meeting.

The government formally extended the shutdown until May 24 at a cabinet meeting later on Tuesday.

Economic activity would still be allowed to resume gradually under a previously defined time frame. The security forces and army would be asked to act strictly to prevent violations.

Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Alex Richardson and Giles Elgood

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