Syria Sends Oxygen Aid to Lebanon to Fight COVID

Damascus, March 24 (AFP/APP): The Syrian government Wednesday offered 75 tonnes of oxygen to neighbouringLebanon during a visit by its health minister in response to a request for Covid-19 assistance.

“We will supply Lebanon with 75 tonnes of oxygen in instalments of 25 tonnes a day for a period of three days,” Health Minister Hasan al-Ghabbash told reporters after a meeting with his Lebanese counterpart. The oxygen shipment, which will be delivered “immediately”, will not strain Syria’s supplies, Ghabbash said, adding the first instalment was being handed over to Lebanese Health Minister Hamad Hasan on Wednesday.

For his part, Hasan said his ministry requested the aid to save hundreds of Lebanese lives threatened by an oxygen shortage. “We have around 1,000 patients on breathing aid in Lebanon’s emergency rooms” and oxygen supplies “that honestly are only enough to last for today”, he said.

Lebanon is expecting to receive new oxygen shipments from abroad but stormy weather conditions has delayed arrivals, Hamad said. “In spite of high need and rising demand for oxygen in Syria, authorities granted us our request,” he added, praising Damascus for its swift assistance.

Official dealings between Damascus and the Lebanese government have been limited since the early days of the Syrian conflict which erupted in 2011. Lebanon is grappling with a coronavirus outbreak that compounded its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war. The country of more than six million has recorded a total of 444,865 Covid-19 cases, including 5,858 deaths since last year. The outbreak has overwhelmed a medical sector already grappling with a drastic depreciation of the Lebanese pound against the US dollar.

The currency plunge has made medical imports, including oxygen, more expensive, leading to limited supplies. War-battered Syria too is grappling with its own virus outbreak on top of an economic crisis aggravated by the financial crunch in Lebanon.

A health ministry official warned last week that hospital beds for Covid-19 patients in intensive care units have run out across Damascus. Syria has recorded 17,743 cases, among them 1,183 deaths, in government-held areas.

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