A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For March 24-25/2020 Addressing All That is happing In the Iranian Occupied & Oppressed Lebanon

28

A Bundle Of English Reports, News and Editorials For March 24-25/2020 Addressing All That is happing In the Iranian Occupied & Oppressed Lebanon
Compiled By: Elias Bejjani
March 25/2020

Picture Enclosed/Italian Priest Giuseppe Berardelli Who gave Respirator To Young Patient and then Died

Titles For The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on March 24-25/2020
Assassinations resume in Lebanon, against old foes of Hezbollah/Dr. Walid Phares/March 22/2020
Coronavirus: Lebanon records 37 new cases bringing total to 304
Hariri Hospital: Three patients have completely recovered, 64 confirmed cases remain in isolation
Aoun Holds Video Talks with RHUH, Red Cross Crews
Presidency Denies Aoun Opposed to Declaring Emergency for Political Reasons
Berri Says State of Emergency Must Be ‘Instantly’ Declared
Cabinet concludes meeting, Abdel Samad stresses strict measures to counter coronavirus epidemic
Diab meets Banking Association delegation
Musharafieh chairs meeting of technical committee in charge of following up on urgent social affairs
Foreign Minister receives call from German counterpart, stresses need to provide aid to poor families
Information Minister: PM Diab stresses state’s duty to help citizens, people’s need to show social solidarity
Othman meets new U.S. Ambassador
Jumblatt reiterates call for state of emergency
IMF sees a recession at least as bad as global financial crisis
Report: Lebanese Army Receives Military ‘Gift’ from France
ABL Unveils $6 Million Grant to Fight Coronavirus
Geagea Denies Having Coronavirus, Says Taking Precautions
Kataeb Party Stresses Need to Declare a State of Emergency, Says Curfew Not Enough
Hariri Lauds China’s Efforts against Coronavirus
Jumblat Urges Economic Plan alongside Coronavirus Measures
Chidiac Says She Tested Positive for Coronavirus
Lebanese industrialists and engineers to start manufacturing ventilators locally/Tala Ramadan/Annahar/March 24/2020
Jihad Azour, the IMF Mideast and Central Asia department director sees Middle East facing ‘big drop in growth this year’
The desperate final days of a domestic worker in Lebanon/Timour Azhari/Al Hazeera/March 24/2020

*Picture Enclosed/Italian Priest Giuseppe Berardelli Who gave Respirator To Young Patient and then Died (see beloe report)

Priest Who gave Respirator To Young Patient Dies/Coronavirus: Giuseppe Berardelli among 50 priests killed
BBC/24 March 2020
An Italian priest who gave a respirator to a younger coronavirus patient he did not know has died of the disease. Father Giuseppe Berardelli, 72, died in hospital in Lovere, Bergamo – one of the worst-hit cities in Italy.
At least 50 priests have reportedly been killed by coronavirus in Italy. The world’s worst affected country with 6,077 deaths so far, Italy has been under prolonged lockdown as it tries to stop the spread of infections from the worst-hit northern region of Lombardy. Coronavirus has been spreading rapidly across the globe, affecting more than 160 countries and claiming more than 16,000 lives. There are more than 360,000 confirmed cases worldwide. Europe is now at the epicentre of the crisis and the US is facing a surge in cases.
Who was Fr Berardelli?
Giuseppe Berardelli, the main priest in the town of Casnigo, died last week in Lovere hospital. According to the hospital, he refused to use a respirator his parishioners had bought for him – choosing to give it to a younger patient, instead. Residents of Casnigo were reported to have applauded from their windows and balconies as the coffin was taken for burial. There was no funeral. On Tuesday, Pope Francis led a prayer for the deceased doctors and priests, “thanking God for their heroic example in serving those who were sick”.
What is the situation in Italy?
Italy shut down most businesses and banned public gatherings nationwide on 12 March as it tried to halt the spread of the virus.
Bars, restaurants and most shops have closed, as have schools and universities. The lockdown has been extended, and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has said it has helped prevent “the collapse of the system”. On Tuesday, it reported a slight slowdown in the rate of infection for a third day in a row. But at more than 600 deaths a day, it is far from bringing the pandemic under control.
Italy has 63,927 people with Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. So far it has reported 6,077 deaths and 7,432 people who have been discharged from hospital after recovering.
But the number infected could be far higher. Angelo Borrelli, Italy’s civil protection chief, told newspaper La Repubblica on Tuesday it was “credible” to estimate the numbers are 10 times higher in reality.
“In the next few hours… we will see if the growth curve is really flattening,” he told the paper.
What is the situation worldwide?
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the coronavirus disease pandemic is “accelerating”, with more than 300,000 cases now confirmed. It took 67 days from the first reported of Covid-19 to reach 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000, and just four days for the third 100,000. But WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was still possible to “change the trajectory”.
He urged countries to adopt rigorous testing and contact-tracing strategies. In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday night that, with immediate effect, “people will only be allowed to leave their home…for very limited purposes”. The number of people who have died in the UK rose to 335 on Monday.

The Latest English LCCC Lebanese & Lebanese Related News & Editorials published on March 24-25/2020
Assassinations resume in Lebanon, against old foes of Hezbollah
Dr. Walid Phares/March 22/2020
We’ve learned that Antoine Hayek, a shopkeeper in Mye-Mye town in East Saida, was assassinated today. He was allegedly an ex assistant to US citizen Amer Fakhoury who was recently repatriated by the US Government back to America after being jailed for six months in Lebanon for having served as a member of the defunct South Lebanon Army. SLA. Hayek has allegedly served under Fakhoury before 2000 in south Lebanon, during the war between the SLA and US designated terror group Hezbollah.
This assassination took place just few days after the US military extracted Fakhoury from Lebanon. Social media supporting Hezbollah is hailing this murder as a retaliation against what they describe as an “agent” of Israel, but had lived in Lebanon peacefully for the last 20 years.
Early assessment indicate that Hayek was killed in retaliation to the repatriation of Fakhoury to the US, to satisfy heavy criticism by many followers and members of Hezbollah against the liberation of Fakhoury. The cold blood assassination of a Lebanese citizen living under the protection of the state, is endangering thousands of Lebanese civilians originating from the south, who live across the country.
Some believe this is also a message to the US that if Washington protects its citizens in Lebanon, it cannot protect the friends and relatives of its citizens. This is a dangerous development, which eventually will have consequences.
The assassinations between 2005 and 2008 are not forgotten. There an International Tribunal prosecuting one major crime. Now there is a Corona virus challenge, but after the challenge is over, justice will continue to march.
Dr. Walid Phares/My take on the face off between Hezbollah and the Lebanese American community, under Trump: Lebanese-Americans and their friends in the US are not intimidated by the Iranian backed militia, do not support its agenda and work on implementing UNSCR 1559 to disarm the militia and back the Lebanese Army, as much as they can. Lebanon’s war between militias is over. The war with Palestinian organizations is over. The war with Syria’s regime and Israel is over. What is not over is Hezbollah’s endless war against all other people.

Coronavirus: Lebanon records 37 new cases bringing total to 304
Joanne Serrieh, Al Arabiya English/Tuesday 24 March 2020
Lebanon recorded a total of 304 coronavirus cases after a new 37 infections were confirmed over the past 24 hours, according to the health ministry. A state of health emergency was declared last week initiating a two-week lockdown as part of the country’s efforts to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International airport was shut down in addition to the sea and land ports. Businesses were also ordered to close, with the exception of food supply stores. Gatherings in public and private places were banned as well.Residents are required to stay home except for urgent trips. No curfew has been announced.

Hariri Hospital: Three patients have completely recovered, 64 confirmed cases remain in isolation
NNA /Tuesday 24 March 2020
The Rafic Hariri University Hospital issued its daily report on the latest coronavirus developments. It read as follows: “The total number of laboratory cases — confirmed to be infected with coronavirus and isolated at the hospital’s quarantine unit — has reached 64, of which 6 were transferred from other hospitals.Three patients have fully recovered, testing negative twice and showing no more symptoms of the disease. All those infected with coronavirus are receiving the necessary care in the isolation unit, and their condition is stable except for three patients who remain in critical condition. To find out the number of infections on all Lebanese territories, please follow the daily report issued by the Ministry of Public Health.”

Aoun Holds Video Talks with RHUH, Red Cross Crews

Naharnet/March 24/2020
President Michel Aoun on Tuesday followed up on the work of the crews of the state-run Rafik Hariri University Hospital and the Lebanese Red Cross in the face of the coronavirus crisis and heard their concerns and demands, the National News Agency said.
The talks between Aoun and the two sides occurred through separate video calls via the Skype application, NNA said. The president assessed their situations and readiness against the coronavirus pandemic and hailed “the efforts that the medical body in Lebanon and the Red Cross volunteers are carry out in order to triumph over the pandemic and safeguard the safety and health of the Lebanese,” the agency added. “Today, you are the source of reassurance for the Lebanese. Your efforts are sacred because you give unconditionally and risk your lives. Today only a few people are subjecting themselves to danger like you are doing,” Aoun told the crews. Lebanon has so far confirmed 304 coronavirus cases among them four deaths and eight recoveries. It has declared a so-called state of general mobilization in bid to limit the spread of the virus.

Presidency Denies Aoun Opposed to Declaring Emergency for Political Reasons
Naharnet/March 24/2020
The Presidency on Tuesday issued a statement in which it denied claims that President Michel Aoun is opposed to declaring a state of emergency over coronavirus for political considerations. “All information and stances attributed to the president are totally baseless and aimed at harming the unity of constitutional, executive and military institutions, especially the army,” the Presidency said. Slamming the allegations as “cheap incitement,” the Presidency said those launching them are seeking to drive a wedge between Aoun and certain institutions. “This will not happen, because laws govern the relation between the president and the rest of the state institutions,” it emphasized. “Enough with manipulation and toxicity, because the country can no longer withstand such vengeful adventures and policies or the settling of personal scores,” the Presidency added. Media reports had claimed that Aoun and his political party are opposed to tasking the army with enforcing the state of emergency over reasons related to the presidential chances of its commander General Joseph Aoun. The government has declared a so-called state of “general mobilization” in the face of the coronavirus pandemic and not a state of emergency or a curfew. The Free Patriotic Movement on Monday said it supports the government in its decision to declare a “health emergency” rather than a “security or military state of emergency,” noting that “the declaration of a state of emergency has legal and procedural requirements that obligate the State to secure people’s livelihood, issue permissions to leave houses and find ways to penalize violators.”

Berri Says State of Emergency Must Be ‘Instantly’ Declared
Naharnet/March 24/2020
Speaker Nabih Berri said he deliberated with Prime Minister Hassan Diab the need to declare a state of emergency over coronavirus fears which has become a necessity in light of an increase in the number of people infected with the virus, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Tuesday.
Berri said that Diab had vowed, during their talks on Saturday, he would declare a state of emergency, “but I do not know why this decision has not been taken yet,” said Berri. “The situation is unbearable, a state of emergency must be immediately and urgently declared,” he emphasized, likening the “general mobilization” state announced last week by the government to a “light emergency.”“Measures must be strict to the utmost extent in obliging citizens to adhere to orders similar to what is applied in the countries of the world, at least a curfew must be imposed,” said Berri.
“The government’s responsibility is to strive to secure the people’s need for food, medicine and unconditional aid, especially for the poorest,” he concluded.

Cabinet concludes meeting, Abdel Samad stresses strict measures to counter coronavirus epidemic
NNA/Tuesday 24 March 2020
Following are the Cabinet meeting decisions read by Minister of Information, Manal Abdel Samad:
Prime Minister Hassan Diab first pointed out that strict measures to counter coronavirus epidemic, which began on Sunday, have clearly increased people’s level of commitment in most regions of the country, adding that it is important to continue implementing these measures in order to ensure that the situation does not get out of hand, although in many areas the commitment has been relatively weak. Therefore, it is essential that military and security forces impose more stringent measures in areas where commitment remains incomplete.
He then underlined: “there have been several and repeated calls for the declaration of a state of emergency, my answer is my call to read the law and relevant statement of reasons.”
Regarding the other aspect of the measures, it is our duty to find a way to help people whose work has been disrupted as a result of confinement, and to look into their difficult social and living conditions.
Of course, it is the duty of the State to help people. That is what we have to do. But at the same time, social cohesion among Lebanese people is particularly essential. Throughout history, the Lebanese have shown cooperation and solidarity in situations of danger.
Today we are facing a new type of crisis. However, I am confident that we will overcome it with the least possible losses, and we will work our way out of the crisis through cooperation and solidarity.
PM also called the Ministers to take decisions within each ministry to suspend payment at maturity, and to postpone the payment of duties and taxes related to electricity, water, telephones, social security fund, mechanic and judicial taxes.
The main decisions that were taken:
An urgent draft law for non-imposing the value-added tax (VAT) for a period of six months, on donations made to public administrations, public institutions, and municipalities, funded from sources in Lebanon as a result of the spread of the coronavirus.
An urgent draft law for suspending some provisions of Article 32 of the Budget Law 2020, allowing all public institutions, municipalities, unions of municipalities, councils, funds, independent professions, and persons under the public law to spend, contribute, or finance, either in cash or in kind, donations to any public or private body, provided that this money is exclusively given to secure health or food aids of all kinds in the face of the emerging coronavirus, and it will not be spent or allocated to any other party. The Cabinet also decided to reduce tariffs on the international, local and additional hours required from internet, as well as DSP and ISP carriers companies, exceptionally and for a limited period, to their subscribers under the general mobilization conditions for coronavirus (after consulting with the State Council).
The Cabinet decided to extend until June 3rd, 2020, the provisions of Decree No. 6036 of December 23, 2019, related to the extension of the effect of the clearance issued by the National Social Security Fund.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs discussed Lebanese students’ affairs abroad, and means of providing them in-kind and material assistance, and he will submit a social assistance plan for them.
The Minister of Social Affairs presented the Ministry’s work plan, which he is also discussing during the meeting of the Technical Committee in charge of following up on urgent issues related to social affairs, in order to submit urgent recommendations and practical and quick steps that meet urgent needs. As for the Capital Control project, the Ministers’ remarks were taken into account, and discussions will continue to complete this project. — Presidency of the Council of Ministers

Diab meets Banking Association delegation
NNA/Tuesday 24 March 2020
Prime Minister Hassan Diab met this morning with President of the Banking Association, Salim Sfeir, in the presence of General Mohammad Kheir, Head of the Higher Rescue Committee, members of the Association Nadim Kassar, Chahdan Jbeily, Antoine Habib, and PM advisors Lina Oueidat and Mohammad Alamuddin. During the meeting, Sfeir offered the donation of 6 million dollars in the name of the Banking Association to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Mr. Salim Sfeir’s speech:
“Mr. Prime Minister
Excellencies,
Distinguished audience,
Today Lebanon is enduring a great national trial. Such trials can only be faced with solidarity and subsidiarity between the State and all the active forces in our society.
The banking sector has never failed to perform its duty to help the Lebanese State and people deal with tough times and get over painful hardships for the last few decades. Today, despite the difficult economic conditions in Lebanon, which have also turned into a global crisis, the banking sector is renewing its commitment to serve the people and ought to take every step that would contribute to alleviating their suffering.
The only way we will defeat this epidemic is to increase immunity, and we can only relieve the plight by national immunity Lebanon has acquired over time. All Lebanese remember that the banking sector has contributed several times, in the modern history of Lebanon, to mitigating the effects of the Israeli attacks on Lebanon and has stood by the State and the people in every crisis and ordeal the country have experienced.
Today, we publicly announce that the Lebanese Banking Association will contribute to the provision of medical and hospital equipment to treat people suffering from coronavirus, at a cost of about USD 6 million. We were keen on having this in-kind donation ready and delivered in a few days to the different governmental hospitals officially accredited as treatment centers. It is with a strong sense of national duty that we are launching this initiative today, which is neither a charity nor a favor. There will be other initiatives in the next few days.
Mr. Prime Minister, Trials can only be faced with solidarity, coordination and consultation between the government and the active and productive sectors of the society. On this occasion, I pay tribute to the doctors and nurses who have been on the front lines of facing this epidemic.
I would also like to thank Dr. Lina Oueidat, Advisor of the Prime Minister, for engaging in communication and fruitful efforts to ensure that Lebanon gets the equipment in the best possible way and within a standard time frame.
Mr. Prime Minister,
We assure you that we will be at the side of the State institutions until we overcome this crisis. We pledge to the Lebanese people our commitment to placing the banking sector at the forefront of institutions seeking to restore normal life in the country and overcome the effects of the ordeal.
Therefore, we add our voice to yours in calling on the Lebanese to unite and support each other in order to overcome this difficult ordeal with the least possible human losses. Lebanese people are the real wealth of the nation. Everything else is just compensable.
May God protect Lebanon and the Lebanese people.”
Prime Minister’s speech:
“First of all, allow me to thank the Banking Association and its Chairman, Dr. Salim Sfeir, for this initiative, as well as the promise he made today that there will be other initiatives to face this creeping epidemic seeping into our nation.
Lebanon is enduring a distressing ordeal, and the Lebanese people are starting to feel the brunt of an accumulation of economic, livelihood and financial crises, in addition to the current coronavirus threat.
The current situation requires joint efforts, without unnecessary commotion and calculations. The whole country is under severe pressure, and no one can carry the burden of such pressure alone. Even the State, given its present potential, finds it difficult to fulfil its full obligations to its citizens. Therefore, we rely on the solidarity of the Lebanese society and cooperation with the State, for there is no recourse but to resort to the State being the sole incubator for all the people, without discrimination.
Today, we must rally around the State and its institutions, and strengthen its capabilities, since only the State confers immunity to the Lebanese against all viruses posing a threat to the nation’s health, security or existence.I take this opportunity to call on everyone to become more united and proactive in increasing the State’s resilience, so that it may form a protective wall for the Lebanese. I thank the Banking Association as well as every good initiative standing with the State to save Lebanon.” —Grand Serail Press Office

Musharafieh chairs meeting of technical committee in charge of following up on urgent social affairs

NNA/Tuesday 24 March 2020
Social Affairs Minister, Ramzi Musharrafieh, chaired the meeting of the Technical Committee in charge of following up on urgent issues related to social affairs, in the presence of Minister of Labor Lamia Yammine and Head of the Higher Rescue Committee, General Mohammad Kheir.
After the meeting, Musharrafieh noted that: “in view of the exceptional circumstances the country is going through, notably the major economic and social pressures on the Lebanese and on a large number of families under severe living conditions, and with the aggravation of the current situation due to the actual crisis, after the announcement of the general mobilization and relatives measures to face the coronavirus, which prevented a large number of people from securing their basic daily needs, the Ministry of Social Affairs held several meetings with the ministries of Industry, Agriculture, Defense, Interior and Municipalities, Labor, Economy and Trade, Finance and Information, in order to develop a joint plan for emergency intervention and provide steadfast support for families that have been affected, provided that the implementation would be carried out through municipalities and different village councils, under the supervision of development services centers and their branches, as well as the Lebanese army. This plan aims at helping the vulnerable communities by providing two baskets for each family, the first one for food, and the second for cleaning and sterilization materials, based on scientific studies and research.
Our concern for the Lebanese citizen motivates us to work in solidarity to help those affected economically and financially by the emerging crisis. We will work on providing assistance for citizens to help them overcome the critical stage.” — Grand Serail Press Office

Foreign Minister receives call from German counterpart, stresses need to provide aid to poor families

NNA/Tuesday 24 March 2020
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants, Dr. Nassif Hitti, on Tuesday received a phone call from his German counterpart, Heiko Josef Maas, during which the former thanked the latter for the assistance provided by Germany to Lebanon.
Hitti briefed Maas on the difficult economic conditions that Lebanon was going through as a result of the economic crisis and the novel Coronavirus outbreak. He also stressed the need to provide aid to the poorest families, especially those that can only survive through their daily income.
The Minister also pointed out that the Lebanese government was in the process of developing programs that include plans to combat corruption and carry out structural economic reforms. For his part, the German Foreign Minister affirmed that his country was ready to help Lebanon cope with its economic crisis and contribute to overcoming the financial and economic distress it was witnessing. He pledged to support Lebanon in implementing structural reform once the Lebanese government’s program in this regard crystallizes. The German official also expressed hope to keep the channels of communication open with the minister Hitti, especially on matters of common concern, in a bid to enhance cooperation between the two countries and help Lebanon out of its crisis.

Information Minister: PM Diab stresses state’s duty to help citizens, people’s need to show social solidarity
NNA/Tuesday 24 March 2020
Minister of Information, Dr. Manal Abdel Samad Najd, said in the wake of the Cabinet session held this Tuesday at the Grand Serail, that Prime Minister Dr Hassan Diab has stressed that it is the duty of the state to help people and that social solidarity among the Lebanese is also essential. Minister Abdel Samad also stressed the need for the military and security forces’ to maintain further firmness in the areas where people did not adhere to the quarantine to prevent corona virus spread. Abdel Samad also pointed out that the Cabinet has taken note of the ministers’ remarks on the Capital Control Project, with discussions to be continued later.

Othman meets new U.S. Ambassador
NNA/Tuesday 24 March 2020
Internal Security Forces chief, Imad Othman, met Tuesday in his office with new U.S. Ambassador to Lebanon, Dorothy Shea, accompanied by officials from the embassy, who came on a protocol visit aimed at cooperation and coordination. Talks reportedly touched on the general security situation in the country.

Jumblatt reiterates call for state of emergency
NNA/Tuesday 24 March 2020
Progressive Socialist Party leader, Walid Jumblatt, on Tuesday said via his twitter account: “Some municipalities have been blocking roads and setting up barriers, which is a form of self-security; however, this may cause many problems. The best solution is for the security forces and Lebanese army to take over these roads and adopt the necessary measures against those who violate the traffic ban.” In his tweet, Jumblatt also reiterated calls for declaring a state of emergency in Lebanon whilst ensuring the basic needs of citizens.

IMF sees a recession at least as bad as global financial crisis
NNA/Tuesday 24 March 2020
The International Monetary Fund said it expects a global recession this year that will be at least as severe as the downturn during the financial crisis more than a decade ago, followed by a recovery in 2021. Nearly 80 countries have asked the Washington-based IMF for emergency finance, Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said in a statement following a conference call of Group of 20 finance ministers and central bankers. Georgieva said the fund strongly supports extraordinary fiscal actions already taken by many countries and welcomes easing moves by major central banks.
“These bold efforts are not only in the interest of each country, but of the global economy as a whole,” she said in the statement. “More will be needed, especially on the fiscal front.”  The Institute of International Finance said earlier Monday that it projects a 1.5% contraction in the global economy this year, with advanced economies shrinking 3.3%. Updated IMF forecasts are usually released in April with the fund’s World Economic Outlook. “The pace of deterioration in expectations is breathtaking. Even so, it’s important to keep in mind that — in contrast to the Asian financial crisis, the great financial crisis, or the European sovereign debt crisis — the coming contraction is not a reflection of underlying economic imbalances. When the outbreak is over, that means there’s hope growth can get rapidly back on track.” —Bloomberg

Report: Lebanese Army Receives Military ‘Gift’ from France
Naharnet/March 24/2020
France has reportedly “gifted” the Lebanese Armed Forces with four “sophisticated” warships that will join the fleet of the Lebanese Navy, al-Joumhouria daily reported on Tuesday. Unnamed diplomatic sources told the daily that the French Ambassador to Lebanon Bruno Foucher has “personally supervised the operation which took place in the past few hours.”Foucher has boarded one of the French battleships that transported the warships accompanying them from the Toulon arsenal military base in southern France to Beirut, which arrived in the past few hours, according to the sources.

ABL Unveils $6 Million Grant to Fight Coronavirus

Naharnet/March 24/2020
The Association of Banks in Lebanon announced on Tuesday a $6 million grant to fight coronavirus. An ABL delegation led by its chairman Salim Sfeir met with Prime Minister Hassan Diab and handed him the cheques of the amount. In a press conference, Sfeir said: “Today Lebanon is enduring a great national trial. Such trials can only be faced with solidarity and subsidiarity between the State and all the active forces in our society. The only way we will defeat this epidemic is to increase immunity, and we can only relieve the plight by national immunity Lebanon has acquired over time. Our initiative today is a national duty. There will be other initiatives in the next few days.”

Geagea Denies Having Coronavirus, Says Taking Precautions
Naharnet/March 24/2020
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea on Tuesday denied social media rumors claiming that he has contracted the COVID-19 coronavirus, as he reassured that he is taking precautions. “It is not shameful for any person to be infected with coronavirus these days,” Geagea added, in a phone interview with MTV. Lamenting that some political rivals have more than once circulated rumors about his health, Geagea urged them to practice “honorable political rivalry.” Asked whether he is staying home this period and whether he is engaging in any political activities, Geagea said: “I’m staying home and at my office simultaneously, seeing as they’re next to each other. I’m also carrying out political activities in a normal manner but through the available electronic means.” “When necessary, I’m holding some small and limited meetings with a limited number of individuals while taking all the necessary measures,” he explained. The rumors apparently started circulating after ex-minister May Chidiac of the LF announced Monday that she had tested positive for the virus.

Kataeb Party Stresses Need to Declare a State of Emergency, Says Curfew Not Enough
Kataeb.web site/March 24/2020
The Lebanese Kataeb party on Tuesday called on officials to announce a state of emergency as soon as possible in response to the coronavirus outbreak, saying that a curfew is not enough to curb the spread of the virus. “The State must improve hospital capabilities and quarantine areas with clear conditions and standards in a bid to ease the spread of the virus,” said a statement issued following the weekly meeting of the Kataeb’s politburo that was held online. “Protecting the Lebanese’ health is no different than protecting them socially and that’s by helping them stay at home,” the statement added.
The party praised the municipalities’ effective role in responding to all health and social requirements despite the lack of potentials, recalling those concerned to transfer all the municipalities’ entitlements to the cities’ treasury.
The politburo called on the government to address the social crisis that is prevailing over Lebanon, saying that there are many ways that can help speed-up the country’s productivity growth.
“This can be achieved through activating a program for the poorest families, updating data, assessing needs, and securing a minimum level of income so as to avoid a wave of hunger and starvation,” the statement added. The party also urged the Education ministry to provide the students with all the needed means so as to continue their studies, saying that they should offer them free internet service that would help them in their online courses. The politburo blamed Hezbollah, the ruling authority as well as the Lebanese banks for the situation the country is going through today, calling them to stop messing with the depositors’ funds. “How come there is yet no economic plan that would contain the crisis the Lebanese are facing daily with the banks regarding withdrawing their money and collecting their rights?” the statement added. The party stressed the need to adopt a transparent and comprehensive reform view that would boost the country’s economy, saying that such plan will help restore the local and international confidence which remains the base for attracting the necessary aid and investments.

Hariri Lauds China’s Efforts against Coronavirus
Naharnet/March 24/2020
Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri has sent a reply letter to the head of the International Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, Song Tao, in which he expressed his great appreciation for the coordinated efforts of the Chinese officials to confront the coronavirus pandemic, lauding China’s contribution in helping Lebanon combat this virus, his office said. “I express to you, on my behalf, and in the name of the Future (al-Mustaqbal) movement, and through you to the Communist Party of China led by its Secretary General, Chinese President Xi Jinping, the great appreciation for the coordinated efforts of the party, the government and the people, and for the transparent humanitarian responsibilities to face the coronavirus, on the human, health, economic and social levels,” Hariri said in an English-language statement distributed by his office.
“We are pleased to note the good points achieved in your country, and the experiences and approaches from which all humanity can benefit,” the ex-PM added. He said: “We in Lebanon are facing the spread of the pandemic. And from our political and public position, I announced and worked on the necessity of Lebanese solidarity, from all popular, official and governmental forces, to take the appropriate measures at all levels to succeed in the battle of limiting the losses, combatting the virus and ensuring the health of the citizens, despite the current conditions of Lebanon.”Hariri also lauded China’s contribution through its embassy in Beirut, as well as China’s contributions in many countries of the world. He concluded by saying: “I would like to express my personal desire, and that of the Future movement, to pursue and activate communication with the Communist Party of China in all forms and at all levels. I also express my wishes for direct communication with you and the party’s Secretary-General, when circumstances allow it, after humanity’s victory over the epidemic and the return of global stability and direct interaction.”

Jumblat Urges Economic Plan alongside Coronavirus Measures

Naharnet/March 24/2020
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblat on Tuesday wondered whether the government has an economic plan in parallel with the emergency measures it has declared to fight the coronavirus pandemic. “The most important question, along with the coronavirus crisis, is that where is the government’s reformist economic plan?” Jumblat tweeted. “Are we still in quarantine as to taking any decision starting from the electricity sector?” he wondered. “Have the recommendations of the CEDRE (conference) and the technical recommendations of the International Monetary Fund been forgotten?” Jumblat went on to say, saying “support for the army of needy and unemployed” might have become a “priority.”

Chidiac Says She Tested Positive for Coronavirus
Naharnet/March 24/2020
Former minister and prominent journalist May Chidiac announced Monday that she has tested positive for the novel coronavirus. “After my return from the French capital Paris last week, I developed some symptoms similar to those of coronavirus, which required immediate home isolation,” she said in a statement. “On Saturday, I underwent medical examinations at the Hotel Dieu hospital to identify the reason behind the symptoms, and after the results of the tests came out a while ago, I was asked to head to hospital for treatment after my infection with the virus was confirmed,” Chidiac added. She also noted that her condition “is not critical,” adding that she will soon join the ranks of those who recovered from the disease. Chidiac survived an assassination attempt in September 2005 but she lost her left leg and left arm in the attack. She served as state minister for administrative development in Saad Hariri’s government between 2019 and 2020. Lebanon has so far confirmed 256 coronavirus cases among them eight recoveries and four deaths.

Lebanese industrialists and engineers to start manufacturing ventilators locally
Tala Ramadan/Annahar/March 24/2020
Health officials are becoming increasingly alarmed about the bleak reality of not having enough ventilators for patients who might need it.
BEIRUT: As COVID-19 spreads across the country, health officials are becoming increasingly alarmed about the bleak reality of not having enough ventilators for patients who might need it.
Accordingly, a new and potentially life-saving initiative that seeks to manufacture ventilators locally was launched by the Lebanese American University Medical Center-Rizk Hospital, American University of Beirut Medical Center, Polytextile, S&AS controllers, and Technica.
Barbar Akle, Assistant Provost at the Lebanese American University, told Annahar that this project will help build ventilators in a short period of time.
“As clinical staff and engineers, we offered some technical advice to the different teams working on this project,” Bassam Tabshouri, head of AUB’s Medical Engineering Department told Annahar.
Ventilators are in short supply in many parts of the world. Physicians rely on them to help treat patients who have contracted the virus in which, in most severe cases, damages healthy tissues in the lungs, making it hard for it to deliver oxygen to the blood. The machines are also used routinely to help other hospital patients breathe, namely those undergoing surgery while under general anesthesia.
“This is a stellar example of intersecting the skillsets and capabilities of academia from all over Lebanon, with those of leading industrialists and entrepreneurs including Polytextile, S&AS controllers, and Technica, to face a critical challenge,” said Joseph G. Jabbra, President of LAU, in a statement.
The teams working on the initiative include Barbar Akle, Michel Khoury, and Ali Ammouri from the engineering school at LAU; Fayez Abillama, a specialist in Intensive Medicine at LAU Medical Center-Rizk Hospital; Paul Abi Nasr from Polytextile; Bassam Tabshoury, head of their Medical Engineering Department at AUB; and Mohammad Khatib, professor of Anesthesiology at AUB.

Jihad Azour, the IMF Mideast and Central Asia department director sees Middle East facing ‘big drop in growth this year’
AFP/The Arab Weekly/March 24/2020
The International Monetary Fund called Tuesday for urgent action from Middle East governments as the coronavirus pandemic threatens a persistent slump in oil revenues and a “big drop” in growth.
The IMF said a dozen Middle Eastern and North African countries had already approached it for financial support. It urged governments across the region to swiftly draw up rescue packages to head off a protracted recession.
“The region is likely to see a big drop in growth this year,” the IMF’s regional director for the Middle East and Central Asia, Jihad Azour, said in a report. The fund had already substantially cut its growth projections for the region over low oil prices, civil unrest and US sanctions against Iran. The coronavirus pandemic has triggered a 50% fall in oil prices that has slashed government revenues across the region.
“The coronavirus pandemic has become the largest near-term challenge to the region,” Azour said. Moody’s Investors Service estimated on Tuesday that oil income for crude-exporting nations will decline this year by between four and 10 percent of gross domestic product.
Kuwait and Iraq will see their oil revenues dive by more than 10 percent of GDP, while the decline for Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain will be between four and eight percent, it said in a report. It did not provide estimates for the UAE. Moody’s said it based its estimates on the assumption that Brent oil prices will average between $40 and $45 a barrel in 2020, although prices currently hover at a round $28 a barrel.
Earlier this week, Standard and Poor’s ratings agency lowered its projection for average oil price this year to $30 a barrel, which would signal a greater decline. The coronavirus has shattered global demand for oil due to weak growth, at a time when businesses from hotels and shopping malls to airlines have virtually ground to a halt.
“The pandemic is causing significant economic turmoil in the region through simultaneous shocks — a drop in domestic and external demand, a reduction in trade, disruption of production, a fall in consumer confidence, and tightening of financial conditions,” Azour said.
The coronavirus shutdown is hurting sectors that are major sources of employment like tourism, hospitality and retail, with rising joblessness and falling wages the likely results, he said.
IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said March 23 that world economic growth will be negative this year and could be worse than the 2008 global financial crisis, further sapping demand for Middle East oil.

The desperate final days of a domestic worker in Lebanon
Timour Azhari/Al Hazeera/March 24/2020
Faustina Tay’s body was discovered in a car park under her employers’ fourth-storey home in Beirut.
Beirut, Lebanon – On the morning of March 13, Faustina Tay sent a final desperate message to an activist group she had contacted about the abuse she was suffering at the hands of her Lebanese employers.
“God please help me,” the 23-year-old Ghanaian domestic worker wrote.
About 18 hours later, she was found dead.
Tay’s body was discovered in a car park under her employers’ fourth-storey home in Beirut’s southern suburbs, between 3 and 4am on March 14. A forensic doctor who examined her body found that her death was caused by a head injury “as a result of falling from a high place and crashing into a solid body”. The doctor found “no marks of physical assault”. A search of Tay’s employers’ home found no signs of a struggle, and the death was being investigated as a suicide, according to a police report.
Hussein Dia, whose home Tay had lived and worked in for 10 months at the time of her death, told Al Jazeera he and his family had been sleeping when she died. Dia said he did not know what had driven the 23-year-old to take her own life, and denied he ever physically assaulted her – “I never laid a hand on her.” But in the week before her death, Tay sent dozens of texts and more than 40 minutes of voice messages to Canada-based activist group, This Is Lebanon, and her brother in Ghana, providing detailed accounts of recurrent physical abuse.
This Is Lebanon names and shames employers accused of maid abuse online in an attempt to resolve issues facing domestic workers on a case-by-case basis.
Human Rights Watch found in a 2010 report that Lebanon’s judiciary fails to hold employers accountable for abuses, while security agencies often do not “adequately investigate claims of violence or abuse”.
Tay told the group that Dia and Ali Kamal, the owner of the domestic worker’s agency that had brought her to Lebanon, had each beaten her twice between January 16 and March 6. Kamal had beaten her along with one of his employees, Hussein, she said. In the messages, Tay repeatedly expressed concerns that speaking about her ordeal could lead to more abuse, and the confiscation of her phone, which she said had taken place once before.
She also feared much worse.
“I’m scared. I’m scared; they might kill me,” she said, in a chilling voice note to activists.
‘Modern-day slavery’
The manner of Tay’s death is not uncommon in Lebanon, a country with about 250,000 domestic workers. Two die each week, according to the country’s General Security intelligence agency, with many falling from high buildings during botched escape attempts, or in cases that are ruled suicides. Domestic workers like Tay are employed under the country’s notorious kafala system, which ties their legal residence to their employer, making it very difficult for them to end their contracts.
This sponsorship system, which is in place in several Middle Eastern countries, has facilitated a range of abuse, such as non-payment of wages, a lack of rest time and days off, and physical and sexual assault.
Lebanon’s former Labour Minister Camille Abousleiman likened the system to “modern-day slavery,” and began a process of reform that is still in its early stages. Women who come to Lebanon for domestic work from a host of Southeast Asian and African countries such as the Philippines, Nepal and Ethiopia are usually looking to support their families back home and eventually return. Tay’s case sheds light on the type of abuse that ends with many returning to their families in coffins.
From Accra to Beirut
A little more than 10 months before her death, Tay had been running a small noodle business in Ghana’s capital Accra, with financial help from her brother Joshua Demanya, who works as a driver. Demanya told Al Jazeera that he had advised his sister against going to Lebanon “because there have been stories of people who go there and suffer so much they run away”. Tay ignored her brother’s advice and arrived in Beirut on May 5 to begin working at Dia’s apartment, where he lives with his wife, Mona, and their three children.
There, she did not have her own room, instead, she slept on a sofa in the kitchen. She complained that she was overworked, had no days off and was usually only able to get to sleep at 2am and was woken up at 8am.
‘I should have stayed’
She quickly regretted her decision to leave Ghana. In November 2019, she texted her brother: “I should have stayed [and] continued with my business.” In January, she told her employers that she could not work for them any more, and asked to be sent back home. They refused – “I paid $2,000, and I said, ‘Take it easy on us, we’ll let you travel after Ramadan,'” Dia recalled telling her.
That was when Tay said Dia beat her for the first time, on January 16, before taking her to Kamal’s agency, where she said Kamal and Hussein beat her. Both denied the claims when contacted by Al Jazeera. Kamal said his agency, established in 1992, brings roughly 1,000 domestic workers into Lebanon every year. “The state would have closed us a long time ago,” if they mistreated domestic workers, he said.
Kamal informed Tay that the only way she would get back home was if she worked two more months with the Dia family, to pay for her ticket back to Ghana. She agreed.
But when the agreement came due in March, she contacted This Is Lebanon and said Dia was refusing to let her leave. A few days later, on March 10, she said Dia, Kamal and Hussein beat her again.
“My boss beat me mercilessly yesterday [and] dis (sic) morning he took me to the office [and] I was beaten again, this is the second time they beat me up in the office.”
Dia said he had taken Tay to the agency with the intent of letting her travel, but received a call two hours later from the agency: “We’ve worked it out, she’ll travel in July.”
Demanya said his sister had agreed “out of fear”.
‘I don’t want to die here’
Al Jazeera informed Lebanon’s Labour Ministry of Tay’s case. An adviser to Labour Minister Lamia Yammine said that the names of Tay’s employers had been noted and the ministry would be informed if they applied to be allowed to employ another domestic worker.
She said they would be permanently blacklisted “if it is proven later on that the suicide was caused by abuse”. On March 12, Tay sent a series of pictures to her brother, appearing to show an inflamed hand, a bruise on her forearm and a scratch underneath her eye that she said were caused by the beatings. She also shared a picture of a bloody tissue that she said was the result of a nosebleed. Despite the abuse, she described, Tay expressed a strong will to live.
“I’m very, very weak,” she said in a voice message, describing pain in her wrist, legs and neck. “Please, help me. Help me to go back to my country for treatment. Please, I don’t want to die here.”