Caretaker Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, chaired a meeting of the Coronavirus Inter-ministerial Committee, in the presence of Ministers Zeina Akar, Raoul Nehme, Mohamed Fahmi, ImadHoballah, Michel Najjar, Ramzi Musharrafieh, Hamad Hassan, Vartine Ohanian and CharbelWehbe, in addition to PCM Secretary-General, Judge Mahmoud Makie, Secretary-General of the Higher Defense Council, Major General Mahmoud Al-Asmar, and PM Advisors, KhodorTaleb, Petra Khoury and Hussein Kaafarani.
After the meeting, Minister Hassan said, “The meeting broached topical issues, especially in terms of assessing the epidemiological situation. Unfortunately, we have noticed that in some areas, the easing of measures has exceeded the permissible limit, thus leading to a surge incases, especially outside Beirut, Mount Lebanon and Keserwan. Post-lockdown testing has shown that the percentage of positive cases in Beirut and Mount Lebanon decreased to 17%. The MOPH is conducting more than 20,000 tests daily, including field tests and PCR tests at government hospitals. The vaccination process in all Lebanese regions must be accompanied by a strict commitment to preventive measures, as vaccination does not mean that the epidemic has ended. Some governorates have reached a zero rate capacity in terms of intensive care beds available for patients. Thus, we have transferred corona patients from Bekaa, Baalbek-Hermel, Akkar and some southern areas to hospitals in Beirut and Mount Lebanon, unlike what was happening before the lockdown. As for the AstraZeneca vaccine, it is expected to arrive in batches as follows: 92,000 vaccines from the World Health Organization via the Covax platform, 125,000 doses are expected to arrive by the end of March, and additional doses will be secured within the next months at the same rate. We are also receiving the specified and previously announced number of Pfizer vaccines on a weekly basis. This morning, we held a workshop at the MOPH and we will have 32 approved centers for AstraZeneca vaccine. We hope that with the launching of this vaccine, and in conjunction with the Pfizer vaccine, we will be able to speed up the vaccination pace in all Lebanese regions. Therefore, we ask citizens to register their names on the platform. With regard to what is being raised about AstraZeneca vaccine, it should be noted that we have adopted this vaccine after it was approved by the Covax platform and the World Health Organization. So far, major European countries still recommend it for use. Measures taken in some countries are understandable, and they are related to a specific cause being under scrutiny. The World Health Organization and European countries such as Germany and France confirmed that using the AstraZeneca vaccine is much better than not using it, especially for specific age groups under 65. The vaccine does not prevent infection, not does it prevent death from other non-coronavirus-related diseases. On the education level, we held a meeting chaired by the Prime Minister and attended by the Ministers of Education and Telecommunications. We are aware of the importance of not losing the current academic year, especially in terms of conducting official exams for the secondary and intermediate certificates. The Ministry of Health will keep track of the strict procedures that must be applied. The Ministry of Health has elaborated a health education plan which will be implemented across all epidemiological surveillance centers in all governorates and districts, in addition to direct follow-up with MOPH doctors, heads of departments and district doctors in all governorates. We will also recommend a change of priorities especially with regard to teachers of the intermediate and secondary stages so as to accelerate their vaccination before their return to school. We will take the necessary measures to keep up with this issue as quickly as possible. As for the opening up of Lebanon’s coronavirus vaccination drive to the private sector, we warn against some ads on social media about the sale of vaccines. We have no problem with any party that adopts an initiative to obtain the vaccine from abroad; however, the most important thing for us is for the source of the vaccine to be reliable, and for the vaccine to be approved by the Ministry of Public Health. They can obtain the “Sputnik” and Sinopharm vaccines and they can openly declare their intent to purchase these vaccines to the Ministry of Health. Hence, we can give direct approval for the shipment to enter the country; however, the process must guarantee the effectiveness of the vaccine and its roll-out. We must receive the lists of persons who will be vaccinated in the approved centers, so that we can register them on the official platform, which reduces the targeted numbers. At the same time, this vaccine will not be sold in pharmacies, but must be available free of charge. All private initiatives to secure vaccines with the aim of vaccinating acquaintances and some institutions are permitted, supervised, and tracked by the Ministry of Health in order to provide absolute safety and effectiveness of the vaccine; but we will not allow investment in the vaccine at the present time. I call on citizens to continue adhering to the preventive measures. At ministry level, we are fulfilling our duty and we are lending a hand to the civil society and to all concrete initiatives; we are also communicating with all international companies to secure the vaccine with the aim of protecting citizens and their families”.