Lebanon’s Higher Defence Council has today recommended extending the state of “general mobilisation” period until 12 April, as part of nationwide measures to combat the spread of coronavirus.
The recommendation was made during a meeting of the Higher Defence Council chaired by President Michel Aoun and attended by Prime Minister Hassan Diab.
According to the National News Agency (NNA), discussions focused on the country’s response to coronavirus, and the latest developments in the crisis.
The cabinet are expected to meet at 9am (GMT) today to discuss extending the nationwide lockdown, and additional measures to stem the spread of the virus.
Parliamentary Speaker Nabih Berri and Diab held talks on Wednesday to discuss repatriating Lebanese citizens from Europe and Africa during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to Naharnet, Berri said that “the government must ensure all the requirements of care and protection for Lebanese expats as well as residents in terms of everything related to their health, social and financial security, wherever they may be.”
Discussions of new measures to combat the spread of the disease come as Lebanon’s Ministry of Finance announced it had paid all its dues to the 32 public and 121 private hospitals in the country, in a statement released today.
Several hospitals across the country have gone on strike in recent months to demand the government pay its dues.Employees at Rafik Hariri University Hospital (RHUH) in Beirut – the leading coronavirus treatment centre in the country – had declared an open-ended administrative strike on 12 March, over deteriorating conditions and lack of pay.
The Daily Star reported that the government had only paid 40 per cent of the dues it owes the RHUH from 2019 and made no payments in 2020.
Head of the Syndicate of Private Hospitals Sleiman Haroun told Human Rights Watch that the government owed hospitals across Lebanon approximately $1.3 billion in unpaid bills since 2011.
A report from the watchdog added that Lebanon’s healthcare system, which has been hit by a severe medical supply shortage since September, risks being overwhelmed by the rising number of coronavirus cases.