The Islamic Health Society affiliated to Hezbollah launched its coronavirus response plan, the “Societal Resistance for a Country Free of the Coronavirus Pandemic,” yesterday in the southern Lebanese town of Nabatieh.
The Iranian-backed Shia militia had previously launched a health emergency committee to fight the virus in southern Lebanon, but the plan announced yesterday is set to encompass the entire country.
A media tour, given by Hezbollah officials yesterday, revealed two new testing centres, several ambulances equipped with ventilators, and a hospital repurposed for coronavirus patients, according to a report by Reuters.
Hussein Fadlallah, a Hezbollah official, said that “the goal is to reduce the pressure on the ministry [of health], hospitals, and the state,” with the group’s “volunteer team of over 25,000.”
The volunteer deployment is set to include 1,500 doctors, 3,000 nurses and medics, 5,000 health workers and 15,000 field service cadres, according to a statement from the militia.
The party added that “five practical plans have been devised to deal with this situation… sections specialising in coronavirus will be equipped at some of our hospitals,” noting that “the Saint George Hospital will soon be exclusively dedicated to receiving coronavirus cases while its patients will be transferred to the Great Prophet Hospital.”
In terms of quarantine and isolation, Hezbollah said “public spaces will be provided, and hospitals will be rented and equipped to be used for quarantine and isolation should the situation deteriorate,” adding that resorts and hotels would be used for such purposes.
Fadlallah called the preparations “the same [as war], but the goals are different.”
Other parties, including Sunni Muslim, Christian and Druze, have rolled out similar initiatives but on a smaller scale, including sterilisation campaigns and food distribution.
Druze leader, Walid Jumblatt, made a donation to hospitals fighting the virus, and a handful of MPs pledged their March salaries to efforts to combat the disease.
Fellow at the Carnegie Middle East Centre Mohanad Hage Ali said the plan was politicised, accusing government officials of seeing “the coronavirus crisis as an opportunity to provide services and present themselves as the parties protecting their communities,” adding that in this endeavour, “Hezbollah is in the lead.”
Lebanon is currently in lockdown until 12 April at the earliest, in attempts to combat the spread of the disease. To date, the health ministry has reported 479 cases, including 37 recoveries and 12 deaths from coronavirus.