Lebanon's Hezbollah invites journalists to inspect its 'war on coronavirus' but fails on social distancing

Lebanon's Hezbollah invites journalists to inspect its 'war on coronavirus' but fails on social distancing
3 min read
01 April, 2020
Lebanon's militant group Hezbollah criticised for media tour unveiling Covid-19 response plan, after photos show non-compliance to social distancing measures. Hezbollah also faces doubts over the number of cases announced
Hezbollah has launched its own health emergency plan in Lebanon [AFP]
Lebanese militant and political group Hezbollah held a much fanfared media tour on Tuesday unveiling its coronavirus response plan, but faced backlash for not imposing social distancing a the event as doubts loomed over the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases the Iran-backed organization has has announced among its rank and file.

Journalists were taken on a tour arranged by Hezbollah in Beirut’s southern suburbs, which are dominated by the organisation.

The response plan, despite claims it would serve all of Lebanon, appears to focus mainly on Hezbollah-dominated areas.

During the tour, the Islamic Health Society, a Hezbollah-affiliated NGO, launched a new response plan, extending the plan's reach to Nabatieh, which Hezbollah and its ally Amal count as one of their strongholds.

In photos circulated on social media, dozens of paramedics stood in front of some 70 ambulances Hezbollah says it has arranged to operate for the response plan. According to international media reports, trucks sprayed the streets of Borj al-Barajneh with disinfectants.

But Hezbollah’s tour faced backlash for not implementing social distancing measures recommended by the World Health Organisation to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. Some journalists who had taken part in the tour took to social media to criticise the move.

Lebanon has confirmed over 460 coronavirus cases so far according to its national Disaster Risk Management Project. During the outdoor press briefing, Hezbollah’s representative for Beirut, Hussein Fadlallah, claimed only 23 – which accounts for 5 percent of the total – were in Dahieh, the southern suburb of Beirut dominated by Hezbollah. 

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According to a recent report by The Guardian, the relatively low number of cases being announced in Lebanon could reflect the lack of transparency, specifically by Hezbollah, which since January has been classified by the UK government as a terrorist organization in its entirety, not just its military branch.

The report cites an official claiming that Hezbollah has quarantined areas in Lebanon’s southern towns, which are being guarded by party members, in recent weeks.

Hezbollah rolled out its Covid-19 response plan last week, launching a health emergency committee to fight the new coronavirus. The plan involves deploying loyalists including 1,500 doctors, 3,000 nurses and paramedics and 20,000 more activists, according to Hezbollah.

Lebanon has recorded 12 deaths as a result of the coronavirus to date, while over 1000 cases are being quarantined, according to the Ministry of Health.

The government, which was formed in January with support from Hezbollah and its allies, has declared a medical emergency. 

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