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BEIRUT — Lebanese police are patrolling the streets of Beirut and ordering shops to close as the country begins a two-week lockdown to limit the spread of the coronavirus that has killed dozens over the past days in the small Mediterranean country.

Restaurants, bars, cafes, gyms and malls closed their doors on Saturday Nov 14 as Lebanon entered its first day of a two-week lockdown to restrict the spread of COVID-19. (Xinhua/Bilal Jawich)

The number of cases increased sharply in recent weeks around Lebanon, straining the country’s medical sector and almost filling hospital intensive care units.

A nighttime curfew has been extended during the lockdown lasting from sunset to sunrise while driving will be completely banned around the country on Sundays. Vehicles with odd and even number plates will be allowed to drive three days a week each to limit traffic.

The lockdown comes as Lebanon is passing through its worst economic and financial crisis in decades, leading to criticism of the closure by business owners who cannot afford the loss of revenue. Over the past year, the local currency shed 80% of its value and tens of thousands lost their jobs in a population of some 5 million that has one of the highest debt ratios in the world.

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