“It’s a moment of solidarity that we all live in Lebanon”

At the end of February, Lebanon announced a first positive case of Covid-19. Since then, measures have been tightened to enforce containment and a “general mobilization” has been decreed by the government. Lebanese Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad answered questions from France 24 regarding the current situation.

France 24: Lebanon has been fighting the Covid-19 for a month and the security forces have been deployed to enforce containment. However, the number of cases continues to increase. How do you assess the situation to date ?

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Manal Abdel Samad, Minister of Information of Lebanon : The government took action as soon as the first case identified in Lebanon was discovered on February 21, taking all the necessary measures without any negligence. Indeed, the Minister of Health asked the health authorities to contact the passengers of the flight taken by the patient and the two suspected cases were placed in isolation at their home before being transferred to the Rafik-Hariri government hospital. A decision was therefore taken to put all passengers from suspect countries in quarantine for a period of fifteen days. Several measures have since been taken to prevent the spread of the virus, including the creation of a ministerial crisis unit to monitor the progress of the epidemic. We have also launched an awareness campaign through public and private media.

As the number of people infected increased, new measures were taken, including the closure of schools and universities since February 29, followed by general mobilization and containment measures.

Crisis units have been formed in the municipalities to meet the needs of the citizens. General mobilization is proclaimed until March 29. During this period, citizens are called to remain confined to their homes, businesses to close their doors – except pharmacies and supermarkets. The maritime, land and air borders will also remain closed. This quick intervention by the government explains the slow spread of the virus and the limited number of deaths so far.

As for the new cases identified, they were relatives of infected people who were isolated and monitored by the health services, or people who entered Lebanon before the borders were closed from countries not classified as sources of contamination.

The government has declared a state of emergency and instructed the security services to ban rallies and travel, except for emergencies.

>> To read: In Lebanon, the crisis too many?

In the public sector, the Rafik-Hariri hospital is responsible for the care of patients with Covid-19. How is collaboration with the private sector organized ?

The cabinet asked private hospitals to mobilize. Several treatment centers are already operational in Beirut and in the regions. Private hospitals are called upon to assume their responsibilities alongside public hospitals in the work of screening, isolation and treatment of infected persons. Without forgetting the government hospitals in the various Lebanese regions which are mobilized to receive the infected people.

The cost of a day in hospital is quite high, as is the cost of protecting the rescuers themselves. How do you intend to do in a country already strangled financially by the economic crisis?

The Lebanese government, aware of the economic crisis weighing on citizens, has approved a law providing for the extension of legal and judicial deadlines, and created a fund to receive donations from the Lebanese. A plan has also been put in place to help poor families. Not to mention price monitoring to prevent a possible rise.

Regarding the cost of hospitalization, the Council of Ministers approved $ 40 million in funding from the World Bank to government hospitals as part of the Health Resilience Project.

As for private hospitals, I think this is a time of solidarity that we are all experiencing and we must close our ranks to deal with this epidemic.

For patient care, how do you plan to manage citizens who do not have health insurance?

We are currently debating this subject in the Council of Ministers and I hope that a suitable solution will be found to it as soon as possible.

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