Minister of Information, Manal Abdel Samad, Minister of Social Affairs, Ramzi Musharrafieh, held a joint press conference at at the Grand Serail on Thursday evening.
Abdel Samad said:
I hereby share the results of today's deliberations. I will tackle three subjects: the first one being the additional measures adopted within the framework of strengthening the fight against the spread of the coronavirus, the second related to the measures taken by the specialized Committee for monitoring the situation of the Lebanese expatriates, and the third in relation to the recommendations of the Coronavirus Committee. The Minister of Social Affairs will then read the decisions issued by the Inter-ministerial Committee for Social Affairs in the framework of the coronavirus situation.
First of all, Prime Minister Hassan Diab issued the Decision No. 54/2020 regarding the adoption of additional measures to strengthen the fight against the coronavirus. For reasons of requirements of the public interest, within the framework of the intensification of the dissuasive and control measures taken by all military and security services to curb all breaches and contain the spread of the virus, and upon the proposals of the Ministers of the Interior and Municipalities, Industry, Economy and Trade, and Agriculture, and after the Cabinet's discussions, the following decisions were taken:
1 - Work will be suspended between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m.
The suspension involves all shops, supermarkets, places of manufacture, storage, and sale of all food products, with the exception of bakeries, pharmacies and factories that produce all types of medical equipment.
I would like to point out that all former decisions within this framework are still valid, and we have added the news measures pertaining to the partial curfew.
2 - Traffic will be prohibited during the aforementioned period stated in Article 1 of this decision, in accordance with the transport control, mentioned in paragraph 3 (c) of Article 2 of Legislative Decree No. 102 / 83 (National Defense Law). All military and security forces will be responsible for implementing this decision, which will take effect starting tomorrow, March 27, 2020, at 7 p.m.
Separately, the specialized Committee for monitoring the situation of the Lebanese expatriates held a meeting to discuss the economic, health and logistical situation of the Lebanese who live abroad, and those who wish to return to Lebanon. The committee reviewed the 3 categories of Lebanese currently in foreign countries: the students, the tourists with a tourist visa, and the emigrants who either have a residency permit or the nationality of the countries in which they respectively live.
Following the discussions, it has been agreed to count the expatriates wishing to return to Lebanon, and the countries of their residence. The results will be submitted to the committee, which will meet again next week, before the end of the general mobilization period on April 12.
Since journalists are not here to ask questions, I would like to clarify that we have defined two periods: the one before and the one after April 12. During the first period, a count of the number of expatriates, including those wanting to return to the country (students and other expatriates), will be made. In this context, a form should be completed in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the General Security and the embassies to assess the approximate number. After April 12, other measures will be taken to repatriate the Lebanese and provide them with a financial and social assistance. This matter has two aspects: the first one is the facilitation of fund transfers to other countries, and the increase of the amounts' limits, the second one is giving required help and assistance to the expatriates in their current countries of residence through embassies. A hotline will also be made available to the expatriates to allow them to easily communicate with embassies for any information. The Lebanese abroad are required to provide their respective embassies with all necessary personal information and all their needs.
The Coronavirus Committee also met today and submitted recommendations related to the suggested measures until April 12, and the measures to follow.
With regard to the measures before April 12 related to the situation of Lebanese students abroad, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be responsible, in cooperation with the Ministry of Finance, the Governor of the Central Bank, the Banking Control Commission, and the Association of Banks in Lebanon, of setting up an emergency system, before March 30, 2020, to facilitate bank transfers to expatriate students. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will also be responsible for monitoring the implementation of this device and for submitting a weekly report to the Coronavirus Committee.
As for the Lebanese who have an expired tourist visa or a visa about to expire before April 12, 2020, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will establish contacts with all competent authorities in respective countries in order to extend the validity of visas issued to Lebanese nationals.
When it comes to the measures to follow after April 12, 2020, the Committee will assess the progression of the epidemic in Lebanon, and will take into consideration the relevant scientific and health data, as well as the treatments available in order to set up a mechanism based on scientific criteria and new laboratory techniques to ensure the repatriation of Lebanese wishing to return safely while preserving internal public safety.
The Coronavirus Committee will also be tasked with submitting to the Ministry of Health's National Infectious Disease Commission a protocol for laboratory measures that can be adopted to test antibiotics that could be used in the treatment of suspected cases for analysis. In turn, the National Infectious Diseases Commission will submit to the Coronavirus Committee a relevant detailed report before April 2, 2020.
The Ministry of Health will also be tasked with strengthening the capacity of the hotline center to enable it to receive and follow as many calls and information made by citizens as possible, given the strong pressure exerted on this line.
In cooperation with the Lebanese Red Cross, the Ministry of Health is also called to establish a protocol, based on international criteria, relative to the transportation and burial of people who have passed away from coronavirus.
The Coronavirus Committee met at 2 p.m. today at the Grand Serail, chaired by the Secretary General of the Higher Defense Council, Major-General Mahmoud Al-Asmar. The following recommendations were made:
Local governors are required to designate suitable confinement centers, within the geographic area of each governorate, as well as means to finance those centers in order to provide the necessary care to people infected with the virus, in mild and moderate cases, or cases who do not require hospitalization and do not have sufficient financial means to confine themselves at home. The governors must submit the results to the chairman of the Coronavirus Committee before March 30, 2020.
The Ministry of the Interior will also coordinate with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in order to agree on an intervention plan for Syrian refugees.
As for Musharrafieh, he said:
In light of the exceptional situation and the great economic and social pressures weighing on the country as well as the deterioration of the situation following the coronavirus crisis, and following the general mobilization and all subsequent measures, as well as the difficulty for a large number of Lebanese to meet their basic daily needs, the Cabinet decided to adopt a response plan to meet the needs of the most vulnerable families that were affected by this crisis. This plan was submitted by the Ministry of Social Affairs.
The Government's main priority is to ensure livelihood needs. Therefore, this plan takes of a comprehensive national character and will consolidate the citizens' trust in their Government. It is based on the support and social solidarity principle and aims at helping Lebanese families overcome the crisis. The plan will comprise transparent standards and ensures a response within the limits of available capacities, and in coordination with relevant Ministries.
This plan is based on the three following pillars:
1 - Provide health and social services through the Ministry of Social Affairs' affiliated centers.
2 - Offer financial and fiscal facilities (this matter is still being studied).
3 - Provide food, detergents, and disinfectants to families classified as poor as per the national assistance plan for the poorest families. Families currently benefiting from food coupons will be excluded.
This assistance is also intended for families with children, old people, persons with special needs, and other people who live in social assistance establishments.
The plan also targets families of people suffering from chronic diseases, people who are confined or quarantined at the request of the Ministry of Public Health, nurses working in the medical sector, taxi and bus drivers, workers who were dismissed, according to data provided by the Ministry of Labor, farmers, fishermen, prisoners, and mine victims, as well as all families applying for help or service, in accordance with the mechanism adopted, provided that they make sure those families are really in need.
Families wishing to benefit from this plan are required to fill out a form handed out by the mayors or the municipalities of their areas. The mayors and municipalities will then, under their liability, send out the forms to the competent authorities who will check the validity of the information, and ensure the transport of the required aid to citizens.