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Lebanon seeks extra medical supplies amid lockdown anger

Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti, 19 March 2020 [Twitter]
Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti, 19 March 2020 [Twitter]

Lebanon’s Foreign Minister Nassif Hitti has said he is requesting additional medical assistance from various countries and international organisations to help combat the spread of coronavirus.

In an interview published by local newspaper Al-Joumhouria, Hitti claimed that Lebanon needs lots of medical supplies and is waiting to see what other countries can offer.

While Lebanon’s Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh, in a statement on 13 March, called on banks to prioritise foreign currency for the import of medical supplies.

France gifted medical supplies on 9 March, which were received by Hitti in a handover ceremony at the Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport.

READ: Riots erupt in Lebanon’s prisons in protest at overcrowding

According to the Chinese Ambassador to Lebanon, China has shared strategies for prevention, diagnosis and isolation which have proved effective.

While, as early as 4 March, Lebanon’s Ministry for Public Health received medical equipment and supplies from Chinese companies, which included “600 medical protective goggles and a batch of testing kits”, Xinhuanet reported.

China has also donated two PCR testing kits to Beirut’s Airport, which has since been forced to close as part of a national lockdown to combat the spread of coronavirus.

READ: UNRWA urgently needs $14m for its action against coronavirus

Measures to enforce a nationwide lock down, which includes the closure of all non-essential public institutions and private commercial businesses, has sparked protests by workers who are set to lose their only source of income.

Drivers of passenger vans – the main public transport in the country – have blocked the Tripoli-Beirut highway for two days running.

Workers have called on the government to grant immediate compensation to drivers who have been barred from working for two weeks while unlicensed cars, vans and buses have continued to operate, local media Naharnet reported.

Although, compensation appears unlikely after the Cabinet set up a fund for donations to help efforts to combat the virus on Tuesday, as the country grapples with its worst economic crisis since the end of the civil war in 1990.

Information Minister Manal Abdul Samad said that “PM Hassan Diab stressed that the government is performing its duties as to protecting the Lebanese and is working to limit the spread of coronavirus”.

Lebanon’s Health Ministry has so far reported 149 cases of coronavirus, and four deaths in the country.

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