Lebanon has announced a sweeping shutdown that includes the closure of its airport, most public institutions and private companies as it looks to rein in coronavirus.
Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad said Lebanon's borders, ports, and airport would shut from March 18-29 and people were obliged to remain at home except for matters of "extreme necessity".
Speaking after an emergency cabinet session to agree the measures, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said the steps would "no doubt" impact an already crisis-hit economy, but "lives and health are more precious".
Work has been suspended at nearly all private companies, with narrow exceptions for food industries and services.
"Each of us is called upon to continue his work, from home, in the way he sees appropriate," President Aoun said in a televised address earlier on Sunday.
Lebanon, which is already going through a deep financial crisis, said on Sunday the total number of coronavirus cases had reached 99. Three people have so far died.
The new measures will shut Lebanon's banks until March 29. On Friday, the central bank asked commercial banks that have imposed strict capital controls to prioritise hard currency for the import of corona-related supplies.
Security forces were dispatched to Beirut's waterfront on Sunday to disperse crowds who'd come to enjoy one of the city's few public spaces.
Other countries in the region have taken similar measures to protect their populations and support their economies.
Central banks in Egypt and Saudi Arabia said they were ready to intervene if necessary, as Gulf Arab states tightened travel and social curbs to contain the infection's spread. M
Australian Associated Press