BEIRUT: Lebanon will extend a coronavirus lockdown by two weeks until May 10 but Prime Minister Hassan Diab said on Friday the economy would be reopened in gradual phases over the coming weeks.
Already hit by a financial crisis that led to a sovereign debt default and a fall in the value of its currency, Lebanon has ordered most businesses to close, shut Beirut airport and imposed an overnight curfew to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab rebuked central bank governor Riad Salameh on Friday, questioning his performance after a steep fall in the pound currency and calling on him to clearly explain to Lebanese where policy was headed.
Diab said the crisis-hit country had suffered $7 billion in additional losses since the start of the year and that liquidity in the banking system was running out, with $5.5 billion in Lebanese deposits exiting in the past three months.
Diab said it was urgent that an economic reform plan, a draft of which emerged earlier this month, be quickly passed to avert further crisis.
New infections have largely tapered off in recent weeks. Lebanon has recorded 696 coronavirus cases and 22 deaths so far, with the ministry of health reporting eight new cases on Friday.
"It is time for us to start reopening our country. We all want our normal lives back. People and companies are struggling," Diab said, though warning that caution was still needed to avoid a second wave that could "destroy the country".
Diab said the government had done a risk assessment on what sectors could be slowly relaunched in the coming weeks, without specifying which ones would come first.
Earlier on Friday Lebanon's higher defence council laid out a five-stage timetable for reopening the economy, with the first beginning on April 27 and the last on June 8.