November 16, 2020 (REFERRING TO THE NATIONAL NEWS AGENCY – LEBANON) Caretaker Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, today chaired at the Grand Serail, a meeting of the Inter-ministerial Committee for the Follow up of the coronavirus file. Attending the meeting were Ministers Zeina Akar, Mohammad Fahmi, Imad Hoballah, Michel Najjar, Ramzi Musharrafieh, Hamad Hassan, Vartine Ohanian, and Charbel Wehbe, as well as the Secretary General of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Judge Mahmoud Makie, the Secretary General of the Higher Defense Council, Major-General Mahmoud Al-Asmar, and PM’s Advisors, Khodor Taleb, Petra Khoury, and Hussein Kaafarani.

Premier Diab also received a World Bank delegation which included Middle East Regional Director at the World Bank, Sarouj Kumar Jah, Nadwa Rafeh, Rima Koteich, and Seebar Foutofat, in the presence of Minister Hamad Hassan and the Executive Director and Head of Payment Systems Department at the Central Bank of Lebanon, Makram Bou Nassar. Edmond Abboud, Hicham Fawaz and Imad Hariri from the Ministry of Public Health, took part in the meeting, as well as Hassan Hamdan from the Ministry of Finance.

Later on, another meeting devoted to assessing the status of hospitals was held, in the presence of Ministers Zeina Akar, Ghazi Wazni and Hamad Hassan, in addition to the Head of the Syndicate of Hospitals, Suleiman Haroun.

Minister Hamad Hassan spoke after the meetings, saying: “We have held health-related meetings to deliberate on the procedures, preparedness, and facilitation of dues’ payment to private and public hospitals. During the Coronavirus Follow-up Committee meeting, we praised the efforts of the security forces in charge of following up on the implementation of relevant measures to ensure the achievement of the nationwide lockdown’s expected objectives. We also commended the citizens’ commitment, behavior and responsible action in most Lebanese regions. We affirm that responsible behavior is a requirement and a necessity for the lockdown to bear fruits, recognizing that it is a bitter glass that was inevitable. We hope to achieve the overarching goal of the lockdown, which is to reduce the number of infections and conduct early diagnosis of a large number of cases, so as to provide health care and avoid hospitalization, while increasing the preparedness of all public hospitals and engaging private hospitals, some of which are still reluctant to receive coronavirus patients”.

Minister Hassan added: “During the second meeting with the World Bank delegation and the Ministry of Health team, we discussed the WB loan and the streamlining of bureaucratic procedures that prevent the purchase of equipment for governmental hospitals. The interlocutors were cooperative and agreed on the importance of cooperating, facilitating payments and taking all necessary measures to expedite the disbursement of relevant funds in order to support hospitals”.

Hassan stated that the third meeting with the Head of the Hospitals Syndicate was devoted to discussing hospitals’ dues from all official insurers, stressing that “the Ministry of Health announced its readiness, as of today, to transfer payments of public and private hospitals and relevant dues, including the second and third categories for the year 2020, amounting to LBP 235 billion, to the Ministry of Finance, and we will proceed with the transfers accordingly. We have also completed the procedures for the payment of reconciliation contracts, which amounted to LBP 263 billion”.

Minister Hassan emphasized that it is too early to assess the effectiveness of the lockdown in terms of number of cases, in light of the reticence to take part in field campaigns for PCR tests due to the rainy weather. 8,000 tests have been performed. If more samples could be taken, the numbers would have remained the same. Therefore, it is too early to draw conclusions, and the lockdown’s outcomes will not be available until Wednesday or Thursday.

Hassan addressed the citizens by saying: “We must be patient and endure in order to protect our society and families”.

Hassan pointed out that a shipment of 5500 Remdesivir tablets arrived at night, at an official price of 760,000 Lebanese pounds, 50 percent of which will be distributed to hospitals directly through the agent, provided that the remaining quantity be kept with the agent in order to be sold directly, so as to avoid the drug being sold in the black market as has happened before. We will secure around 500,000 pills by the end of the month, allowing patients to take the treatment at the price set by the company. Hassan called on doctors not to cause panic among coronavirus patients in case of drug stock-out, stating that this drug might not prove effective for all corona patients.

Source: National News Agency