Beirut, Weekly Report # 10, March 27th, 2020

Cronache dal Libano

di Yves

This week’s news are mostly about the Coronavirus pandemic including a world-wide situation report covering feedbacks from Europe, China, Japan and the USA.

In Lebanon, on Saturday 21 March, the head of the government has demanded a strict quarantine for all Lebanese. Accordingly, on Sunday 22 March, 227 tickets have been distributed by FSI (Forces de sécurité de l’Intérieur = carabinieri) to people travelling without any valid reason. 

On Monday 23 March, Syria has closed its border with Lebanon. 

On Wednesday 25, the council of minister has adopted the recommendations of the Lebanese High Council of defense to push forward the quarantine status of the country from 29 March to 12 April. It has also decided that as of Friday 25, any circulation will be forbidden between 7pm and 5 am. 

On Thursday 26, the total of the cases in the country has now reached 368 among, 93% of them being Lebanese and with six deaths. 20 have been cured. As a reminder, the first case had been reported on 21 February and was coming from a woman flying back from Teheran.

The same day, the government has officially requested to the IMF a loan of 500 million $ for the fight against Coronavirus.

In addition, a loan of 130 M $ by the world bank which had been blocked since 20 Feb 2018 has been reportedly released one week ago. 

In Bekka valley and Tripoli strict health measures have finally been implemented. 

In the former with local volunteers closing down the access roads to their villages and performing themselves health checks and in Tripoli with the recent intervention of the armed forces.

The government is still opposed to a status of state emergency for the country and has so far just demanded a self-imposed quarantine. It argues that a “state emergency” would mean a transfer of the power to the armed forces which would need a political consensus. This consensus will have to be reached with a majority of two thirds of the parliament and it would take one week to have and another week to put in practice.

Compounding this delicate situation is the problem of the refugees either Palestinians or Syrians and their respect of quarantine as well as their treatment. Some efforts have been made to deal with this issue in two Palestinian camps, but the efforts are still very sparse.

After Hezbollah has been accused of hiding some contamination cases, Hachem Safieddine, the executive president of the Hezbollah council has announced that they have mobilized 4500 volunteers and reportedly rented private hospitalsand equipped 32 medical centers adding that it has spent 3,5 billion Lebanese pounds to tackler the crisis.  

This not without presenting some serious political problem considering that they look as doing much more than the government or at least to be much better organized. Since the beginning of the interruption of all flights on 18 March, Middle East Airlines (MEA), President Mohammed Hout, has announced that his company is losing almost one 1 million dollars a day.