Govt. OKs Plan to Bring Home Expats as of April 5
The Cabinet on Tuesday approved a mechanism for bringing home willing Lebanese expats amid the global coronavirus crisis.
"The plan will be implemented from April 5 to April 12," Information Minister Manal Abdul Samad announced after a Cabinet meeting at the Grand Serail.
"Prime Minister Hassan Diab stressed that the government is keen on protecting the Lebanese and that any expat return must be subject to the conditions laid out with the health minister," Abdul Samad added.
"We will not be lenient in enforcing the measures and I call for cooperation calmly and scientifically, away from any other calculations," she quoted Diab as saying during the session.
According to a leaked copy of the governmental plan, the priority will be given to citizens who have chronic illnesses, the elderly, families, those who have critical social situations and those who left on short-term visas.
The returnees will pay for their travel tickets and they will only be allowed to leave Beirut’s airport if the results of PCR tests conducted at the facility come out negative.
They will also undergo PCR tests prior to boarding planes and will sign pledges that they would isolate themselves at homes or at quarantine centers (hotels, complexes and other places) under the supervision of the ministries of health, interior and defense and under penalty of criminal prosecution.
The first stage of the plan (April 5-12) has a cap of 10,000 returnees while the number of returnees in the second stage of the plan (April 27-May 4) will be determined “in light of the outcome of the first stage,” the leaked copy says.
“Should the need arise for further stages, the issue will be studied then according to the available data,” it adds.
The Cabinet also decided to grant financial aid worth LBP 400,000 to each needy family and the money will be distributed by the army, Abdul Samad said.
"The premier called for stricter enforcement of the general mobilization measures, noting that the reports coming from some regions over the past two days are alarming," she added.
Many expats, especially students, have urged Lebanese authorities to evacuate them in recent days, decrying financial difficulties and health concerns.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Hizbullah chief Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah have led political calls for bringing home the expats, with Berri threatening to suspend his ministers’ participation in the government and Nasrallah urging a “safe, calculated and quick” repatriation.
Lebanon has so far confirmed 463 coronavirus cases among them 12 deaths and at least 35 recoveries.
The government has imposed a four-week lockdown, shuttering non-essential businesses, public administrations and educational institutions as well as the air, land and sea ports of entry.
It has also asked citizens to stay home unless it is urgent while imposing a night curfew.