The Information office of Presidency of the Council of Ministers, issued the speech of PM Hassan Diab after the extraordinary cabinet session: ‘Dear fellow Lebanese
Our country is going through difficult times, burdened by worries, crises, and problems. Now is th e time for patience, courage, reason, wisdom, peace, and carefulness. Now is the time for care, for protecting ourselves and those we cherish most: our families, children, brothers, sisters, and friends.
Now is the time for cooperation, mobilization, volunteering, initiatives, help, support, good deeds, and saving others. Today, more than ever, Lebanese need to be united, as they have always been in the face of crises.
As I express my pride towards all efforts made by institutions and entities to contain the virus that struck our Lebanon and the whole world, threatening each and every one of us, I call on all Lebanese to abide by the highest levels of alert, to be able to control this epidemic and defeat it.
And to every doctor out there, every nurse, every assistant, every pharmacist, every hygiene worker, every Red Cross member, every WHO member, and every volunteer, on behalf of all Lebanese, I salute you for all your efforts and sacrifices, for your humanitarian compassion and patriotism.
My fellow Lebanese, Until today, we have succeeded in hindering the spread of the virus, since it began to spread across the globe as of December 31st, 2019.
A scientific, practical, and proactive strategy has been set forth to protect the Lebanese citizens, exceptional measures have been adopted since the beginning, and Lebanon was able to contain the first wave of the virus without commotion, because we are doing our duties. Though we are facing criticism due to our measures to suspend schools and universities, we took these actions ahead of the world, and they positioned us several steps ahead of the virus. And when these actions proved to be adequate, outbids became more frequent, prioritizing political investments over the people’s safety.
Today, Lebanon is experiencing a state of emergency, therefore, the Government declares a state of general mobilization until the end March 31st, 2020.
We have taken advanced measures to halt travel to certain countries before the World Health Organization had declared them contaminated, such as: Italy, Iran, Great Britain, Egypt, France, Germany, Syria, and Spain, as we had suspended the access of nationals of these countries, and ensured the safe return of our citizens and their family under the World Health Organization’s close supervision.
Exceptional measures were also adopted at the airport, and we continued implementing them to ensure adequate testing of travelers arriving to Lebanon, from body-temperature control, on-board tests, and isolation for fourteen days.
Furthermore, the Ministry of Interior assigned a team to supervise and implement the self-isolation strategy. We have asked all public and private hospitals to elaborate emergency preparation plans, and have assigned the Rafik Hariri Hospital as the sole center to receive patients, to avoid exhausting all hospitals and to safeguard healthcare for patients that are not infected by coronavirus.
Three weeks ago, a decision was made by the Government to suspend schools, universities, and nurseries. This measure proved to be the main factor that limited the spread of the disease and allowed its containment.
Ten days ago, cafes, restaurants, bars, public parks, ski resorts, and leisure centers of all kinds such as public and private sports courts, swimming pools, health centers and others were closed. We have also called upon both public and private sectors to adopt rotating schedules to limit as much as possible the presence of employees, in a way to ensure continuous working hours.
Moreover, we have asked all religious authorities to take extreme measures to limit gatherings in places of worship and their relevant facilities. We have furthermore implemented the safe-distance principle between individuals, and have issued recommendations a week ago, addressed to our citizens, inciting them to avoid crowded places, to suspend all social events, gatherings at homes as well as outside, and to only leave their houses in cases of extreme necessity. These strategies have led to a great reduction – more than 80%, – of airport activities, as well as road traffic. The necessary instructions were given in order to activate the Risk, Catastrophe, and Crisis Management units and committees within the Presidency of the Council of Ministers as well as governorates, in addition to which, we have agreed with the private sector to adopt emergency response strategies that would adequately cover all health and non-health sectors, and their implementation has already begun.
Additionally, we have commissioned all the relevant official administrations to adopt the necessary measures without exception, within the scope of their capabilities and resources, in order to break out of traditional and routine methods, and secure the strategies that were undertaken. The measures and actions we have taken to protect the Lebanese represent the highest level of what may be constitutionally adopted, and never in the history of Lebanon have these been implemented. Any discourse out of this context is void of meaning. What is asked of all the forces today, is to measure up to national responsibilities, to gather around the State and its institutions, to provide support and counsel, to save the Lebanese people.
There is no doubt that these measures will affect our economy, much like international economies have been affected. However, the people’s lives and safety are far more precious, and remain our priority above all else.
I understand the Lebanese people’s fears. Over the last few weeks, my thoughts have been with you… fathers, mothers… brothers… sisters… children and grandchildren… cousins, friends, neighbors, and colleagues… My thoughts were with all of you, on how to protect and save you.
I will remain as transparent as you have known me to be, in stating the facts as they truly are, and we will do all that we possibly can to protect the Lebanese people.