Minister of Public Health, Hamad Hassan, chaired a meeting for representatives of local authorities, attended by Minister of Information, Manal Abdel Samad, to discuss ways of gearing up and coordinating the measures to be implemented in the next stage of the battle against coronavirus, with emphasis on improving readiness, especially before the launch of the fourth stage of repatriation on May 11; a step which is supposed to be followed at a later stage by the reopening of the airport and the resumption of air traffic.
Emphasis was placed on the need for close coordination between three parties: the Ministry of Public Health concerned with planning, managing plans and overseeing their implementation, international donor organizations, and local authorities, including civil society bodies.
The meeting touched on practical gaps, namely the municipalities’ inability to fully monitor obligatory home quarantine, in addition to “the difficulty of equipping quarantine centers in the regions, away from media propaganda and unjustified public objections.”
Subsequent meetings were decided in order to set a realistic implementation process that takes into account the specificities of each district, and ensures dealing with matters with a sense of responsibility that could prevent the country’s slipping into the unknown.
Minister Hassan stated that “the international rankings with regard to re-opening airports has placed Lebanon among the countries of the world in the least dangerous position, while other countries remained in the medium or high risk category.”
Expressing his satisfaction with this classification, achieved by Lebanon as a result of close cooperation between the government, official departments, local authorities and NGOs, Hassan stressed that “the challenge lies in maintaining this ranking in light of the gaps that appeared during the recent pandemic confrontation stage, which showed a large number of infections among the returnees. Also, the cases that have emerged in the last week have proven that there are localized epicenters that are confined and specific, but which still pose a real danger in terms of spread of the pandemic.”
The Minister of Health warned that “coronavirus seriously threatens health security, so the tactic in dealing with the fourth stage of repatriation will be altered; the returnees will be in the thousands and this means hundreds of infected people. It is no longer possible to keep betting on the conscience and personal responsibility of individuals, as that may eventually lead to the spread of the virus.”
Accordingly, the Minister announced that the next stage will focus on tightening procedures according to the following plan:
“1- Governors, municipality heads, and mayors will personally follow up on the results of PCR examinations for people living within the scope of their authority.
2- Positive yet asymptomatic cases will be transferred to the region’s hospitals as long as there is a capacity for these hospitals. After that, work begins on the equipping quarantine centers, in cooperation with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, UNHCR, the United Nations Development Program and the nurses’ union.
3- Positive cases suffering from symptoms will be admitted to the Rafic Hariri University Hospital, until the latter reaches its full capacity, under which case the infected patients will be transferred to government hospitals in the regions.”
Abdel Samad, in turn, affirmed that “the Ministry of Information is a partner with the Ministry of Public Health, with the aim of promoting media awareness so that the ongoing health campaign can succeed in achieving its goal, and facing misleading and inaccurate information.”
She announced that the Ministry of Information had created a type of BLOG RUMOR on its website, to correct every misinformation relevant to coronavirus. “A website will be launched next week, with the aim of revising all news.”
“The importance of the media’s role lies in transmitting the correct information. And when this information is directly linked to health security and the preservation of life, any misleading would generate major epidemic harm,” she said.
Abdel Samad finally urged the media to keep up with the awareness campaigns, calling for “the exercise of caution and social distancing in large gatherings, so that everyone is keen on the interest of others.”