Information last updated: 15 May, 2020
- Total shutdown: The government declared a nationwide shutdown for four-days amidst coronavirus spike.
- A Health emergency was previously declared from March 15 – April 12.
Response set up and capacity
Primary responsibility for tackling the Coronavirus pandemic falls on the Ministry of Public Health, The Ministry of Interior, and the government represented by the Prime Minister, in addition to the Supreme Defense Council.
The Ministry Of Public Health takes care of reporting the numbers, predicting upcoming challenges, organizing public awareness campaigns, and liaising with hospitals handling COVID cases. On the other hand, the Ministry of Interior, The Prime Minister, and The Supreme Defense Council are responsible for coming up with and ensuring the application of the rules and decisions related to quarantine and social distancing. The Army and internal security forces are ensuring the application of these laws.
At the moment, Lebanon has an installed capacity of around 2300 intensive care units and 15000+ hospital beds (including 906 adult and 279 child artificial respirators). Total number of doctors sum up to 13,800 while nurses amount to 15,600.
Entities / Organizations
• Ministry Of Public Health
• Ministry Of Interior
• Prime Minister
• WHO - supporting the Ministry of Public Health
Mitigating factors - What is being done?
- Feb 28: Closing schools and universities was announced until March 8th.
- March 6th: A prior extension for school closures was announced until March 15th.
- March 15th: The Prime Minister declares a 14-day health emergency and mobilization, with schools and universities still closed, closing government and private offices, stopping public transportation methods (buses), preventing transportation between districts, closing borders and airport, only allowing food-related and health-related shops/offices/factories to be open, ensuring there are no crowded areas, regular checks by the Ministry of Interior to ensure cleanliness and disinfecting of open shops and factories.
- March 26th: Extension of the health emergency for an additional 14-day period. In addition, food-related organizations are now allowed to open only 5AM-5PM, no one allowed to walk on the streets 7PM-5AM unless for a medical emergency. Government explores measures to ensure the return of Lebanese expats. No regulations or announcements regarding the extension of welfare benefits or aid to the less fortunate have been announced as of now.
- April 1: The media reports that the Lebansese pound is now worth 47% less on parallel markets than it is at the official current rate.
- April 9 – Amid general unrest, riots erupts in Lebanon prisons and videos are shared showing inmates holding knives and fires burning as fear of coronavirus contagion spreads.
- April 17 – Civil society organizations highlight increase in domestic violence emergency calls, one of the organizations indicated to have received twice more calls this year than during all of 2019.
- April 26 – starting April 27, the “Cabinet’s five-stage plan to reopen the country” will be put in place, with factories, wholesale shops, and retail shops allowed to open up (some just for takeaway). Amongst others, hotels, car rental companies, insurance companies, petro stations and home gas companies can also start to operate, alongside plumbers, electricians, and mechanics.
- April 27 – Protests have taken place throughout the past week, in spite of the curfew in place, as individuals have taken the streets to protest the economic conditions in the country. Political tensions over the managing of the economic situation are on the rise amongst top government officials.
- May 12: Following a spike in coronavirus cases (more than a 100 cases were registered in just the previous four days), after a seemingly flattening of the curve during April, Lebanon’s cabinet announces a four-day total nationwide lockdown. Supermarkets will remain open, and the agricultural and industrial sectors will continue to function.
- The Beirut airport has now been closed for nearly two months.
- The IMF says it has begun discussions with the federal government who is seeking around $10 billion USD in aid to survive the financial crisis.
Risks, vulnerabilities, obstacles
- Rising fears of refugee camps being “time bombs” for the expansion of the virus, given the lack of adoption of required measures. The lack of testing, health care capacity, ability to undertake proper social distancing, amongst others, increase the risk of refugee populations.
- The situation was deemed ‘critically okay’ per the Minister of Public Health (April 7). Daily increases this week so far have been less than in previous weeks. However this may lead individuals to underestimate the risk of infection, breaking quarantine rules. If this happens, it is expected for this to lead to the numbers of cases increasing again.
- Plans for reopening through the “Five Phase Plan” announced in late April, include first opening up food and agriculture sectors, as well as some factories and utilities companies (as well as self-employed professionals). The second phase, scheduled for May 4 will seek to reopen remaining factories and restaurants – the latter at 30% capacity – as well as children parks, hairdresses, amongst others. Phases three, four and five would be put into effect on May 11, May 25 and June 8.
- Concerns over deteriorating standards of living are also increasing, as the pandemic has exacerbated already dire conditions. The World Bank, prior to the outbreak, had estimated that the portion of the population living below the poverty line would rise from 30 percent to 50 percent this year, as a result of the stalling economic growth in the country. According to Human Rights Watch, the “government announced plans to provide food assistance that is has not carried out” (as of April 27).
- Gender violence: Lebanon generally fairs better on gender indicators than other countries in the region, but there are gaps in the country’s domestic violence laws and “stigma against reporting gender-based violence remains high” (AlJazeera). Marital rape, for instance, is not criminalized. As reportes of domestic violence increase, there is a great worry that support services are not available for survivors.
Potential actions and demands
- Current bank regulations and restrictions limit transferring money outside the country. This has raised the concerns of parents of Lebanese students abroad in countries severely affected by Coronavirus. Some of the students are under strict quarantine measures and unable to work or gain financial resources because of the virus, thus bans on remittances put these students at risk.
- Due to the mobility restrictions put in place, a lot of requests have been made to urge the government to aid the less fortunate families.
- Requests from nurses and the medical staff working COVID cases have emerged to ask the government to provide a series of measures (including providing dorm rooms to health care staff) that allow them to safely isolate from their families due to their fear of unknowingly infecting their families.