Lebanon declares national emergency

Lebanese soldiers standing guard in the downtown district of the capital Beirut wear protective masks against the coronavirus Covid-19, on March 15, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 16 March 2020

Lebanon declares national emergency

  • President Aoun salutes medical staff and wishes the sick a speedy recovery

BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Aoun addressed the nation in a televised speech, in which he called on people to stay at home.

He said: “This the hour of national solidarity. Keep working from your homes. Life doesn’t stop and should not stop.”
He saluted medical staff and wished the sick a speedy recovery. He said that the virus did not distinguish between political allegiances: “Our national unity remains our source of strength and we will overcome the epidemic.”
At midnight on Sunday, Lebanon closed its borders with Syria in accordance with a government decree.
“The decree excluded fruit and vegetable trucks transporting agricultural products to Arab countries through Syria,” Ibrahim Tarshishi, head of the Bekaa Farmers Association, said. Such a closure of border crossings between Lebanon and Syria has not occurred since the 1970s.
The decision was taken as the Lebanese authorities announced a new phase in its fight against coronavirus by declaring a national emergency. The number of confirmed cases was 99.
A complete lockdown was announced for 15 days, excluding bakeries, pharmacies, food stores and health institutions.
It does not require a total curfew, but rather a reduced movement of people.
The Ministry of Health, in its daily report, called on “the Lebanese people to abide by the strict measures adopted by the authorities, particularly the mandatory home quarantine and the restrictions on movement, except when absolutely necessary.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• Keep working from your homes. Life doesn’t stop and should not stop, says President Michel Aoun.

• A complete lockdown was announced for 15 days, excluding bakeries, pharmacies, food stores and health institutions.

On Sunday, all the municipalities across the country were mobilized to reinforce a total lockdown and organize the entry of shoppers to food stores, limiting the number of people allowed into shops at the same time, while also following disinfection and prevention measures.
The presidential palace held a Higher Defense Council meeting and a Cabinet session, which was attended by the heads of the Lebanese Order of Physicians, the Order of Nurses in Lebanon and the Red Cross.
The populace was called upon to adhere to the home quarantine to limit the number of cases, which is expected to increase in the next few days, according to the Ministry of Health.
Churches canceled Sunday prayers, while Dar Al-Fatwa, Lebanon’s Sunni authority, decided to cancel Friday prayers for the next two weeks.
There are dozens of illegal crossings along the Lebanese-Syrian borders, which are used to smuggle goods and people, in addition to the military ones used by Hezbollah. Most of those crossings are located in mountainous areas.
 “Hezbollah took a city in the Central Bekaa region as a mandatory isolation center for its members suspected of carrying the coronavirus after traveling between Lebanon, Syria and Iran,” a security source in the Bekaa told Arab News.
Such a closure of border crossings between Lebanon and Syria has not occurred since the 1970s.


Libyan migrant centers are like concentration camps, pope says

Updated 8 min 32 sec ago

Libyan migrant centers are like concentration camps, pope says

  • The pope has in the past called for the camps to be closed
  • Thousands of refugees and migrants are held in about 20 official detention facilities in Libya

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Wednesday compared migrant detention centers in Libya to concentration camps, saying the world was being given only a diluted version of how hellish life really was for the people living there.
The pope, who has in the past called for the camps to be closed, made his comments in his homily during a Mass to mark the seventh anniversary of his trip to the Italian island of Lampedusa, landing place for many migrants making the perilous crossing from north Africa.
Departing from his prepared address, he recalled how an interpreter translating his conversation with a migrant seven years ago, gave him only a “distilled” version of what the migrant was actually saying.
“This is what is happening today in Libya. They give us the distilled version,” said Francis, who has made defense of migrants a major part of his seven-year-old papacy.
“Yes, there is a war (in Libya) and we know that is ugly but you cannot imagine the hell that people live there in those lagers of detention,” he said.
Lager is an abbreviation of the German word ‘Konzentrationslager’, or concentration camp.
“All these people had was hope as they were crossing the sea,” Francis said.
Thousands of refugees and migrants are held in about 20 official detention facilities in Libya, some controlled by armed groups, as well as an unknown number in squalid centers run by traffickers, according to the United Nations.
Human rights groups say abuses, including beating and forced labor, are rife in the detention centers.
Detainees in the Libyan camps include those who left on boats for Europe and were brought back by the European Union- backed Libyan Coast Guard, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, says.