Fiery Lebanon demonstrations lose steam

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A Lebanese youth runs with a national flag as smoke billows from burning tires during protests that turned into violent riots in Beirut. (AFP)
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Army soldiers scuffle with anti-government protesters blocking a road leading to the parliament building in downtown Beirut. (AP)
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Updated 01 February 2020

Fiery Lebanon demonstrations lose steam

  • The interior minister’s media office: There is no security decision to disperse the protests in Beirut’s squares

BEIRUT: There has been a significant decline in Lebanon’s angry protests, months after demonstrations began in response to corruption, mismanagement and the country’s terrible economic situation.
Peaceful protests in Beirut and elsewhere turned into riots as attempts to form a new government stalled and financial authorities imposed tough measures on banking services.
But, amid rumors of a coronavirus outbreak and Prime Minister Hassan Diab working on an action plan to deal with the economic crisis and unveil its vision for the future, protester numbers have dwindled. Voices calling for change and accountability have diminished and are limited to prominent activists.
Activist Rabih El-Zein was detained for more than three days on charges of rioting and blocking roads. He was taken from Roumieh Central Prison, blindfolded and handcuffed, to appear before a judge.
El-Zein’s attorney, Nohad Salma, condemned this treatment and said his client had been tortured during the preliminary security investigation and by other detainees in his cell.
His arrest coincided with the protest movement losing its heat. The retreat has encouraged security forces to reopen major public space after activists abandoned their tents in Riad El Solh and Martyrs’ squares, as well as squares in in Sidon, Nabatieh, Tyre and Tripoli.
“There is no security decision to disperse the protests in Beirut’s squares. Removing the metal barriers at the entrance of Martyrs’ Square aims at facilitating traffic,” the interior minister’s media office clarified.

HIGHLIGHT

The arrests ‘targeting activists were aimed at suppressing and scaring people through the judiciary and the law.’

“Revolutions do not continue with the same momentum all the time unless they were able to achieve their goals,” public affairs expert Zeina Helou told Arab News. “They take time and different forms and cope with the political circumstances. In Lebanon ... the chances of it happening soon are small.”
She said that the arrests targeting activists were aimed at suppressing and scaring people through the judiciary and the law. People were also economically drained because of the country’s severe financial crisis.
“So searching for their livelihood became a priority except for the young ones who have nothing to lose,” she added.
“The pressure on the streets has decreased. People want to give the new government a chance, hoping it will do them justice. The politicians knew how to deal with this side of people’s emotions and focused on it.”
Helou said there had been attempts to intimidate people, such as spreading rumors about one of the protestors contracting coronavirus and dying. “It stressed the fact that the virus is easily transmitted in human gatherings.”


Egypt sets virus vaccine target

Updated 8 min 4 sec ago

Egypt sets virus vaccine target

  • Volunteers will be closely monitored in order to take a second dose after 21 days

CAIRO: Assistant Health Minister and Coordinator of the Anti-COVID-19 Scientific Committee Ihab Kamal said that 842 people have volunteered in just one week to take part in Egypt’s coronavirus vaccine trials.

About 332 have been admitted in accordance with the health ministry’s requirements, which include being free from chronic disease.

Kamal said: “The number of volunteers until now is not low. We are working on raising the awareness of the citizens through various media platforms on the importance of the vaccine tests.” He added that the required number of volunteers is 6000.

He said the first two phases of the vaccine tests are complete and the third phase has begun. He added that volunteers are called for 21 days, pointing out that volunteers take a second dose in case they do not suffer any side effects. Kamal said the blood’s antibodies are measured throughout the year as part of the program.

Egyptian Minister of Health Hala Zayed announced on Thursday that she had launched the third and final phase of clinical trials on two vaccines developed by Egypt. She said the results of the two vaccine trials are positive so far.

Sources said that the Ministry of Health and the three centers taking part in the trials have received many applications. However, many of the applicants do not match the prerequisites, and therefore only 335 were accepted for the trials.

Zayed said in a press conference in Cairo that the current phase targets the participation of 6000 Egyptians. She said there are three places allocated for clinical trials.

Volunteers will be closely monitored in order to take a second dose after 21 days. After 45 days of the first dose, antibodies produced by the vaccine are measured to test their efficiency, Zayed said.

She said that national medical committees have been formed from civil and military bodies representing Egypt’s best medical experts.

She added that a committee will oversee conducting the clinical trials and that two vaccines out of seven have reached the third phase of clinical trials.

Zayed said that the first phase of the two vaccines included a test on a small group of 10 to 20 people with the aim of ensuring safety and also determining an appropriate dose. About 200 people took part in the second phase.

The third phase aimed included trials on 45,000 people from around the world, including 6,000 Egyptians.

The Ministry of Health and the company responsible for conducting the clinical trials explained the conditions that volunteers must follow to be eligible for tests.

They include an age bracket from 18 to 60 years old according to health condition. Registration must also be carried out using official documents. Volunteers must reside in Egypt or have valid residency documents during the trial period. Moreover, volunteers must sign an “informed consent” form prior to taking part in the trial.

There are a number of health conditions that prevent volunteers from taking part in the trials, including suffering from the symptoms of fever, dry cough, exhaustion and gonorrhea during the 14 days that precede the tests.