SUPREME DEFENSE COUNCIL CONVENES AT BAABDA PALACE: COMPLETE CLOSURE STARTING SATURDAY UNTIL NOV 30 MORNING

The Supreme Defense Council convened today at the Presidential Palace, in a session headed by President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, and decided to submit a termination to the Cabinet which includes complete closure starting from Saturday November 14th (5:00am), until Monday November 30th (5:00am), taking into account the exceptions specified in Cabinet Resolution No. 1 dated 15/3/2020, regarding the declaration of public mobilization to confront the spread of Corona virus.

 

The Council requested the relevant ministries, each according to their competence and in coordination with one another, as well as from all security agencies to take all measures which would put this decision into immediate implementation and give the necessary instructions to strictly implement it.

 

At the beginning of the meeting, President Aoun stressed that “There are measures which must be taken to confront the spread of the pandemic”. The President however asserted that “The importance remains in citizen response and awareness of the importance of prevention and cooperation with the competent authorities for the success of the goal of the closure that will be taken at the national level because prevention is the first and free medicine”, pointing out that a national conference will be held soon, including all those concerned with the issue of Corona virus, to study the steps to be taken after closure period ends, so that the responsibility is inclusive and a the national level.

 

Moreover, Caretaker Prime Minister, Dr. Hassan Diab, indicated that “The closure decision is difficult, but if we don’t resort to closure the reality will be more difficult and what is required of all the military and security services is to be alert in all regions to strictly implement it, as there should not be areas which do not comply with the procedure”.

 

The Defense Council meeting was preceded by a meeting between President Aoun and Prime Minister Diab to discuss the health situation in light of the high number of Corona infections and measures to confront the development of this pandemic at the national level.

 

The session was attended by Caretaker Prime Minister, Dr. Hassan Diab, Deputy Prime Minister and National Defense Minister, Zeina Akar, Foreign Affairs Minister, Charbel Wehbe, Finance Minister, Ghazi Wazny, Interior Minister, Mohammed Fahmy, Economy and Trade Minister, Raoul Nehme, Public Works Minister, Michel Najjar, Public Health Minister, Hamad Hasan, and Justice Minister, Mary-Claude Najem.

 

Army Commander, General Joseph Aoun, Director General of General Security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, Director General of Internal Security Forces, Major General Imad Othman, Director General of State Security, Major General Tony Saliba, Secretary-General of the Supreme Defense Council, Major General Mahmoud Al-Asmar, Cassation Public Prosecutor, Judge Ghassan Ouweidat, Governmental Commissioner to the Military Court, Judge Fady Akiki, Army Intelligence Director, Brigadier General Antoine Mansour, Director of Information Branch at the General Security, Brigadier General Manh Sawaya, Director of ISF Information Branch, Brigadier General Khaled Hammoud, Assistant General Manager of State Security, Brigadier General Samir Sannan, Presidency Director General, Dr. Antoine Choucair, Security and Military Adviser to the President of the Republic, Brigadier General Paul Matar, Health and Social Affairs Adviser of the President, Dr. Walid Khoury, Adviser of the Prime Minister, Dr. Petra Khoury, Head of the Syndicate of Hospitals, Captain Suleiman Haroun, and Head of the Lebanese Order of Physicians, Dr. Charaf Abou Charaf also attended.

 

Speech of Prime Minister, Dr. Hassan Diab:

 

“Lebanese concerns, worries and questions are many. The challenges they face are huge, numerous and exceptional. Fear of the present has crept into the hearts of the Lebanese, and the concern for the future is a common concern. Between the present and future, people are busy securing their livelihood, even at the expense of their health. The truth however is that without sanitary protection, livelihood is not guaranteed.

 

I fully understand people’s concerns, anxieties and questions, but taking care of the lives of our parents, families and children takes the priority over anything else. A great danger is today faced by all mankind, as result of this pandemic which sweeps the world, hijacks people’s lives and disrupts the economies of the largest countries. In Lebanon, we were on the right path in containing the pandemic, and we successfully passed the first wave, with Lebanon ranking 15th among the countries succeeding in confronting Corona virus, because people at that time highly adhered to all measures.

 

However, the Beirut Port explosion overthrew these measures, and caused a loss of control over the pandemic’s spread, in addition to the failure of some of the Lebanese to abide by the rules of self-protection, by wearing masks, sterilization and social distancing which contributed to a large extent to the outbreak of the pandemic and its rapid outbreak to spread among the Lebanese.

 

Perhaps, even today, there are those who believe that Corona is not fatal, and this is what helps impede the measures taken by the state to protect the Lebanese. Over past weeks, we have adopted many plans to contain the pandemic, by locally closing the areas with high infections. However, these plans collided with the failure of some people to adhere to and circumvent these procedures, as if the matter was merely a violation. The reality is quite different however. Today we have reached the red line in the number of infections, and we have reached the stage of extreme danger in light of the inability of governmental and private hospitals, to receive the injured in critical cases, and we are afraid that we will reach a stage where people die in the streets in the absence of vacant places in hospitals to treat the injured, or there is a trade-off between one person and another.

 

The whole country is at a current critical situation. We cannot continue to implement the partial closure plan, since it didn’t achieve the desired result. Last April, which was 7 months ago, I warned that failure of citizens to adhere to the procedures, will lead to a very large increase in the number of injuries in the second wave. I know that there are splits of opinions between supporters of total closure, and those opposing this decision. And each opinion has its own argument. This debate happens in most worldwide countries, and there are divisions in several European countries on this issue.

 

I know very well the extent of the economic damage inflicted by this closure, and I clearly hear the voices of economists and traders screaming against the closing decision and its implications for their businesses. I also clearly hear the voices of doctors, hospitals and the entire health sector, sounding the alarm and calling that the country be closed for a whole month, so that they can reduce the speed of health collapse. Unfortunately, if people had adhered to the prevention measures for months, we would have saved the country in this difficult decision in light of the difficulties which the country passes through.

 

Now we have reached here, to this very delicate stage of the spread of the pandemic, and we no longer have other options to resort to. Therefore, today we have taken the decision to completely close, starting from Saturday the 14th of November, until Sunday the 29th of November. If the Lebanese had adhered to the measures, and we succeeded in containing the pandemic by reducing the number of injuries, then we would have saved people lives, and we may have saved the economy as well, because we will have well-anticipated the holiday season. But if the Lebanese did not comply, and the causality index remains high, we may have to extend the closure for an additional period of time. We have asked the Health Ministry to raise the readiness in the health sector during this period. We also asked military and security apparatuses to strictly enforce the closure decision in all regions unexceptionally . the closure must be complete and cover all Lebanese regions. Of course, there will be exceptions to the closure decision for the health and vital sectors, and these exceptions will be announced shortly. However, there is a firm decision to confront the outbreak of this pandemic and return it under control, so that the health sector can catch its breath and prevent the collapse of the health situation in the country in facing Corona virus. I call on the Lebanese to adhere to all health measures, and the measures which we have taken, to protect themselves and their families.

 

Our bet is that the Lebanese be aware of the danger and that they will join hands in this difficult confrontation, and I know very well that the Lebanese will be stronger in challenges and that they are able to win this confrontation.

 

May God help us serve Lebanon and protect the Lebanese.

 

Long Live Lebanon and the Lebanese”.

 

Questions & Answers:

 

Question: Why do you hold the Lebanese people responsible for the outbreak of the virus? What guarantees the implementation of the decisions you have taken?

 

Answer: “Nothing guarantees that except commitment. I not only held the Lebanese people responsible for what we reached, but rather said that part of the responsibility lies with them, and the proof is that when everyone played a positive role and adhered to the decisions, including the citizens, in the first wave, we were among the first countries that managed to overcome this wave of the pandemic. Everyone bears responsibility, including the political class. I am not hiding anything. But the basic principle remains for the Lebanese to wear the mask, no more or less, and to adhere to social distancing. We are not asking for the impossible”.

 

Question: During the partial closure, the security services did not keep pace with the implementation of the decision. Will you take strict security measures today?

 

Answer: “The truth is that the heat map, as we called it, focused more on keeping pace with the 1,600 municipalities in Lebanon, of course with the help of the security authorities. Consequently, we cannot unfair to the municipalities, because a large number of them have little potential. Meanwhile, even in European countries, the application is not easy. The areas are close to each other, and some stores close while others open. Implementing partial closures is not easy, and it requires a great commitment from the municipalities, security agencies and citizens. The general lockdown method is easier to implement by the security forces, and we have contacted the security services in order to coordinate, and therefore we decided that the closure should start from Saturday and not tomorrow, to leave a grace period for the citizen to prepare himself for the closure on the one hand, and to give an opportunity to the security forces, the media and others to prepare for the issue starting from Saturday Note that these two weeks will not solve the problem. The whole goal is to first be able to give a breath to the health sector, from which so many have been infected. On the other hand, the main problem is the small number of beds in intensive care. Before the Beirut Port explosion, we did not have a problem, but because of this explosion, more than 100 intensive care beds were occupied, thus reducing the number of intensive care beds allocated to Corona patients. When the catastrophe happened, we could not tell the Lebanese to stay in your homes, and this is what increased the spread of the epidemic. The mortality rate is still small, less than 0.1%, but the number of intensive care beds is small, and this is the main problem. During the two weeks after the general closure, the Ministry of Health will work to increase intensive care beds by about 50 beds in the government sector, and at the same time coordination will be made with the Syndicate of Private Hospitals to increase the number of this family, and the Corona Committee will coordinate with the Ministry of Health for what must be done, and injuries will be followed up during this period, through meetings of the Ministerial Committee and the Technical Committee for Corona, to know the measures that must be taken”.

 

Question: After the lapse of the two weeks, will life gradually return to normal?

 

Answer: “The answer to this question is related to the evaluation that we will do during the two weeks of closing. All concerned in the private and public sectors, the Ministry of Health and the Corona Commission, will conduct an assessment for these two weeks so that we can take appropriate decisions. There is a health component and an economic component that will be evaluated after these two weeks. We are taking action now, not later, to try as much as possible to move away from taking action during the holiday season”.

 

Question: Will social assistance be provided to the poorest segments?

 

Answer: “With regard to social assistance, an amount of 400 thousand pounds is currently being distributed to the most needy families through the Lebanese army, which has revised the names, and today we have reached a list of 240 thousand families receiving this aid. We will continue to provide this aid until the end of this year at a minimum level, and God willing, a new government will be formed to take decisions on this issue. 240,000 families benefit from this amount, and it is said that the estimates include 1.3 million Lebanese. As for the issue of the port explosion and my aggressive pursuit of the hundred billion pounds that we are entitled to spend as compensation, it has now been in the custody of the army about two weeks ago, and it is allocated to about 10,200 families, of which about 55 billion pounds have been distributed, and at the same time non-governmental organizations will help about 22,000 families affected by the explosion, and thus 33 thousand families will benefit from this aid. This aid is not enough, and we are pursuing the 450 billion pounds that belong to the health sector, and we are also following the 600 billion allocated to the industrial sector, farmers and small companies, which the Central Bank has not yet approved, according to what we understood from the Minister of Finance, in knowledge. A law has been passed regarding this issue”.

 

PM Diab said: “You must remember that Lebanon does not suffer from a single disaster called Corona, but rather has been exposed to several disasters, starting from the economic, social, financial and banking part, to the Corona and the political situation. I offer facilities to any country or non-governmental organization that offers aid to Lebanon. Everything that came about that prevented us from providing facilities is in the context of rumors”.

 

PM Diab also confirmed that the number of Corona cases in Lebanon reached a maximum of 150 before the port explosion, and the pandemicwas very limited, but after the explosion, the epidemic spread rapidly, bringing the number of cases today to 1,200. The lack of commitment of citizens was the main reason for this rapid spread.

 

Question: Who advised you to cancel your visit to Beirut port before the explosion occurred?

 

Answer: “I have presented what I have to the judge in charge of this matter, and I believe that it is not necessary for me to speak about this issue in front of the media because it has become in the custody of the judiciary. It is true that I was going to visit the port, but there was a discrepancy between three information between eight and ten at night. As a result of these three different information within two hours, you made me take a decision to say that, since the file is still under investigation, they ended the investigations related to it and sent us the results and I will visit the port after that with evidence and provided with information. I now leave the details to the judiciary”.

 

Asked about the US sanctions against Minister Gebran Bassil, and whether they are among the pressures exerted on Lebanon, who is rigid in the stances of negotiations for the demarcation of the southern maritime borders, PM Diab said “I have always been frank with the Lebanese, so my answer is that I really do not know. Why does the US government place anyone on the sanctions list, because I do not have any details about this issue. I refuse to place sanctions on any Lebanese official if this official is not corrupt”.

 

Defense Council Statement:

 

After the meeting, Major General Mahmoud Al-Asmar, read the following statement:

 

“At the invitation of His Excellency, President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, the Supreme Defense Council convened at 11:00am today at the Presidential Palace, to follow-up on latest developments and measures to limit the spread of Corona virus, in light of the high numbers of infected individuals and deaths, in addition to the shortage of intensive care beds in Government and private hospitals.

 

The meeting was attended by Caretaker Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and National Defense Minister, Foreign Affairs Minister, Finance Minister, Interior Minister, Economy and Trade Minister, Public Works Minister, Public Health Minister, and Justice Minister.

 

Army Commander, Director General of General Security, Director General of Internal Security Forces, Director General of State Security, Secretary-General of the Supreme Defense Council, Cassation Public Prosecutor, Governmental Commissioner to the Military Court, Army Intelligence Director, Director of Information Branch at the General Security, Director of ISF Information Branch, Assistant General Manager of State Security, Presidency Director General, Security and Military Adviser to the President of the Republic, Health and Social Affairs Adviser of the President, Adviser of the Prime Minister, Head of the Syndicate of Hospitals, and Head of the Lebanese Order of Physicians also attended the meeting.

 

At the beginning, the President spoke about the importance of the meeting held today to discuss measures to be taken to confront the spread of Corona virus in various Lebanese regions, pointing to the need to work to reduce injuries and enable health institutions to play their role in treating the injured.

 

His Excellency also indicated that there are measures which must be taken. The President however stressed that the importance remains in citizen response and awareness of the importance of prevention and cooperation with competent authorities for the success of the goal of the closure which will be taken at the national level, taking into account the conditions of some companies, factories and hospital institutions to enable them to carry out the responsibilities arising.

 

His Excellency, the President, also asserted that prevention is the first and free medicine, and stressed the need for coordination between relevant ministries and departments, indicating that a national conference will be held soon, including all those concerned with the issue of Corona virus, to study the steps to be adopted after the closing period ends, so that the responsibility is inclusive and at the national level.

 

Then, the Prime Minister said “Lebanon today is facing a serious challenge because the Corona pandemic will become beyond our ability to control, and therefore society will be under severe danger. We have crossed the red lines, and it has become a duty for us to raise the level of measures and unfortunately, some of the Lebanese bear an essential part of responsibility in reaching this phase, and if there was commitment to the measures that the government was taking, we would not have been obliged today to raise thceiling of these measures”.

 

The Prime Minister added “I had warned after the first wave of Corona that the second wave would be stronger if the Lebanese didn’t adhere to preventive measures. Today’s health sector is sounding the grave alarm due to the lack of sufficient amounts of beds to accommodate critical cases, and this entire sector demands closing the country for an entire month. We have tried by all means to avoid this decision, but the lack of commitment of some of the Lebanese is what led us to where we are. And I know that the damages of closure are great, not only economically, but also on the living conditions of some social groups as well as for the state. But this is to avoid seeing people die in the street, and there are no vacant places in hospitals to treat them”.

 

The Prime Minister continued “Today we are obliged to take a closure decision to protect our people, and children from the great danger reaching us. From here, I propose to close the country from Saturday, November 14, to give people an opportunity to prepare for the closure, until Monday morning, on the 30th of November. Thus, we can protect the holiday season and the economy if the people abide by procedures, and we have succeeded in reducing infections carrying the pandemic, as happened at the beginning when we were able to be among the 15 countries in the world which succeeded to contain the virus”.

 

Prime Minister Diab concluded “I know that this decision is difficult, but if we do not resort to closure the reality will be more difficult. This decision must be implemented, and all military and security agencies are required to be alert in all regions to strictly implement it. There shouldn’t be any areas which do not comply with the procedure. I know that it is not easy to implement total closure, but the state and its apparatus are concerned with protecting the Lebanese. Without talking about the prestige of the state, we are talking about protecting our people. Therefore, all agencies must cooperate and set up a plan and allocate responsibilities to pursue the implementation of the decision. If we do not succeed in containing the pandemic during the lockdown period, we will extend for an additional period. So we have to try to save the country by extending the closure”.

 

Afterwards, the Health Minister discussed the reality of the health and hospital sectors and the demands of the concerned sectors, who decided that the necessary decision should be taken for general closure. The Health Minister also stressed the importance of the military and security agencies to keep pace with this decision for its proper implementation, asserting the need to raise hospital readiness to increase the number of beds to treat the injured.

 

The Health Minister concluded by informing the attendees that contacts are ongoing to secure the necessary vaccinations that have been shown to be feasible.

 

Then the Head of the Syndicate of private hospital owners presented the hospital reality and showed the current difficult situation that this sector suffers from, and that hospitals will not be negligent in securing the necessary for patients, but rather within their material, equipment and operational capabilities. This issue has been discussed and the efforts will be made to secure the necessary financial resources for the hospitals.

 

Finally, the head of the Order of Physicians stressed the need for coordination between the various concerned authorities and for everyone to adhere to the preventive measures and procedures within the framework of the general closure, as it has positive implications for the success of the general closure decision.

 

After deliberations and listening to the competent ministers as well as the leaders of the military and security apparatuses, it was decided to continue declaring public mobilization.

 

In the framework of following up on facing this danger through public mobilization, which is stipulated in Article 2 of Legislative Decree No. 102/1983 (National Defense) with the necessary plans and also special provisions dealt with in this article, in addition to the measures and procedures previously taken by the Council of Ministers in its previous meetings.

 

And based on Decree No. 6929 of 9/3/2020 regarding the extension of the declaration of public mobilization to confront the spread of the Coronavirus until 31/12/2020.

 

And based on the recommendation of the ministerial committee charged with following-up on the issue of the Coronavirus on 9/11/2020, during which the Minister of Health presented the data related to the spread of the pandemic.

 

The Supreme Defense Council decided to submit a termination to the Council of Ministers whichincludes complete closure, starting from 5:00amon Saturday, 14/11/2020 until 5:00am, on Monday, corresponding to 31/11/2020 with taking into account the exceptions that were identified in Cabinet Resolution No. 1 of 15/3/2020 regarding the declaration of public mobilization to confront the spread of the Coronavirus, which are:

 

First: Closing public administrations and institutions, municipalities and their federations, independent interests, universities, public and private schools, and nurseries, regardless of their differences.

 

With the exception of what is required by necessities of work as follows:

 

– Ministries, public administrations, public institutions, municipalities and their federations in accordance with a mechanism issued according to decisions issued by the ministers or by the authority with authority to a limit not exceeding 25%, under penalty of liability for those who violate those decisions.

 

-The main institutions of the Ministry of National Defense, the General Directorate of Internal Security Forces, the General Directorate of Public Security, the General Directorate of State Security, the General Directorate of Civil Defense, the Lebanese Red Cross, members of the municipal police, municipal guards and fire brigades of all kinds.

 

-The Ministry of Public Health, government and private hospitals, clinics, social care centers, and everything related to the health sector in the hospital, pharmaceutical, laboratory, and medicine fields, and their manufacture, while securing all the requirements of this sector of materials, equipment and needs.

 

-The General Directorate of Social Security, the General Directorate of State Employees Cooperation, guarantor mutual funds, insurance companies, health observers, auditors, and the TPA, in relation to hospital, health, pharmaceutical, and laboratory approvals.

 

– Rafic Hariri International Airport and everything related to its administration as well as the management of all sea and land ports.

 

-The Electricity of Lebanon Corporation and all other institutions and companies that secure and distribute electrical current in all Lebanese regions, with everything related to production, feeding, distribution and maintenance.

 

The Ministry of Communications, the “OGERO”Authority, and everything related to the telecommunications sector in terms of securing the Internet service and the fixed and cellular telephone networks.

 

– The General Directorate of Oil at the Ministry of Energy and Water and the management of oil installations, with everything related to securing, storing and distributing fuels, including fuel stations, companies and institutions that handle the import, storage and distribution of gas.

 

-The General Directorate of Water Resources and Water Institutions, the National Authority of the Litani River, and the General Directorate of Investment, with regard to water security, storage and distribution, and the private companies and institutions that handle the bottling and distribution of water.

 

The Central Bank, the banks and financial institutions, and in coordination with the Association of Banks in Lebanon, companies and institutions of transfer, distribution and transfer of money, and banking institutions, with the minimum necessary to secure the requirements of the conduct of their work.

 

-The ministries of industry, agriculture, economy and trade, with everything related to the import and export of agricultural and animal products, in addition to the collection, transportation and distribution of crops and agricultural products.

 

-Judges and lawyers related to securing remote trials in order to decide requests to release detainees, as well as to consider urgent cases and urgent matters.

 

Members of the diplomatic corps.

 

-Non-governmental organizations, which exclusively provide assistance in the fields of health and food, provided that they obtain a license issued by the Ministry of Interior to facilitate their work and activities.

 

 

 

Second: Suspending work in companies, private institutions, shops of all kinds, and offices of self-employed persons, taking into account the extreme necessity related to work conditions in coordination with the unions of these free professions.

 

With the exception of mills and ovens and everything related to the manufacture, storage and sale of basic foodstuffs, agricultural products and materials needed for them, and delivery services in restaurants and patisseries as well as the rest of the factories at a rate of one-third of its workforce, and also companies and institutions working in the field of transporting goods by air, land and sea, as well as management hotel workers, furnished apartments, security and guard companies, in addition to waste collection, transport and sweeping companies, their users, workers in the media sector and press publications, at a minimum. It also excludes the implementation and completion of restoration and consolidation works and all related requirements in the area affected by the Beirut Port explosion.

 

Third: The concerned ministries are required, each according to their competence and in coordination with each other, as well as from all security agencies, to take all measures that would put this decision into immediate implementation and give the necessary directives to strictly apply it, in addition to strictly respecting safety measures and preventing the Coronavirus, including restricting the movement of cars (tourist and public), trucks (private and public), and motorcycles of all kinds.

 

Fourth: Requesting the Ministry of Information to take the necessary measures to intensify awareness-raising and wishful thinking campaigns on local authorities, civil society associations, and visual, written and electronic media, to maintain awareness plans and instructions to confront the pandemic.-

 

Source: National News Agency

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