Beirut airport shuts after closure of land crossings 

A worker sprays disinfectant. (AP)
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Updated 17 March 2020

Beirut airport shuts after closure of land crossings 

  • Confusion in dealing with the spread of the coronavirus was reflected in the reaction of the Ministry of Finance regarding the banks “decision to close down upon request by the employees” unions for fear of employees contracting the virus

BEIRUT: As the Lebanese government announced a state of public alert and health emergency until the end of the month to counter the spread of the coronavirus, work in public and private institutions came to a halt on Monday, including in banks.
Municipal police banned all forms of gatherings on neighborhood sidewalks and on the seaside Corniche, and forced shops to close.
Activists on social media had fierce debates over the issue of people who went out to the Corniche on Sunday, despite authorities’ calls for them to stay at home.
After the closure of land crossings with Syria, it was decided that the Rafik Hariri International Airport in the capital will also be closed starting next Wednesday at midnight.
Mohamad El-Hout, chairman of the board of directors of Middle East Airlines (MEA), told Arab News that the last four flights on Wednesday by MEA will include “one to Istanbul, one to Geneva, and two to Brussels.”
Engineer Fadi El-Hassan, caretaker manager of Rafik Hariri International Airport, said that the decision excludes “military aircraft, air ambulances, planes that cross Lebanese airspace, cargo planes, aircraft transporting diplomatic missions accredited in Lebanon, members of international organizations, UNIFIL forces, and people working for companies associated in oil and gas exploration.”
The number of people infected with coronavirus in Lebanon increased to more than 110. Hospitals in Beirut, the north, and the Bekaa started to receive suspected coronavirus cases. The hospitals confirmed that they had not received infection cases to date.
The American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC) administration revealed that one of the cafeteria cooks, who served food for the medical team and hospital staff, had contracted the virus. However, it said in a statement that the patient was on leave when he showed symptoms. He was then transferred to the emergency department where he proved positive.
AUBMC administration assured that it “would not jeopardize food safety,” however it called on “cafeteria visitors to bring their food with them, in order to avoid crowding in the cafeteria.”

FASTFACT

Activists had fierce debates over the issue of people who went out to the Corniche seaside recently.

It turned out that the cook went to his hometown in Nabi Chit in the governorate of Baalbek-Hermel, and spent several days with his family and relatives who transmitted the virus to him. Baalbek-Hermel Governor Bachir Khodr said that everyone who had contacted the patient had been quarantined to make sure they did not transmit the virus. Khodr added that there was another AUBMC cafeteria employee who showed symptoms of infection, and was transferred to Beirut for tests. It is the first case in the northern Bekaa region.
Cases of coronavirus are not confined to one region in Lebanon. Previous cases were limited to people coming to Lebanon from infected countries; new cases were among people who had never left the country.
On Monday, Prime Minister Hassan Diab inspected the National Operation Room for Disaster Management and reviewed information related to the spread of the disease. Meanwhile, the Minister of Interior Mohamed Fahmy ordered civil public institutions to deploy a minimum number of employees to provide basic services, and limit work to necessary processing.
Confusion in dealing with the spread of the coronavirus was reflected in the reaction of the Ministry of Finance regarding the banks “decision to close down upon request by the employees” unions for fear of employees contracting the virus.
Minister of Finance Ghazi Wazni confirmed that he opposed the banks’ closure, saying that the banking sector is a vital and essential sector for people’s daily life, and called for the setting of work shifts.


Turbulent times in parliament: A new normal for Turkish politics?

Updated 2 min 35 sec ago

Turbulent times in parliament: A new normal for Turkish politics?

ISTANBUL: After three opposition politicians were stripped of their status as members of parliament in Turkey on Thursday, June 4, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) made it clear that a new period had begun in Turkish politics, given the country’s preoccupation with economic deterioration and rising unemployment that has already rendered many voters disenchanted. 
Two deputies from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and one deputy from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lost their positions, and were arrested in an overnight operation on terror charges.
The Kurdish politicians, Leyla Guven and Musa Farisogullari, were detained, while the CHP deputy, Kadri Enis Berberoglu, was released from police custody after less than 24 hours as part of anti-coronavirus measures in Turkish prisons. Several HDP deputies were later beaten by police during a protest in Ankara over the imprisonment of their colleagues.
Insights from Ankara suggest two more parliamentarians from the HDP may be stripped of their seats soon as their files are being reviewed by the Turkish Court of Cassation. 
The crackdown on opposition figures does not end with politicians. The government is also working on a legislative change to the way bar associations elect their board members. Fifty bar associations recently released a joint statement against any move to limit their power and to increase pressure on the country’s already weakened judiciary.
The AKP and its coalition partner, the Nationalist Movement Party, are also working on another legislative amendment to ban the transfer of parliamentary deputies to other parties over fears that newly founded opposition parties could be strengthened with the transfer of deputies from the CHP to take part of upcoming elections.
Ten new political parties were established in Turkey over the past five months, bringing the total number to 91 — two of them, the Democracy and Progress Party, and the Future Party, to target disillusioned AKP voters and liberal segments of society.
“Turkey has been a consolidated authoritarian state for some time and attacks on the HDP are certainly not new,” said Paul T. Levin, director of the Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies.
“Going after the CHP would be a dramatic escalation, but they have been focused on Berberoglu for some time due to his involvement in the arms truck scandal,” he told Arab News.
Berberoglu, a former journalist, was arrested for providing dissident daily newspaper Cumhuriyet with confidential footage of Turkish National Intelligence Organization trucks allegedly carrying weapons to Syria.
According to Levin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may be trying to weaken the opposition in advance of a snap election, that is widely expected to be held next year.  
“As for the bar associations, they have long been an important source of opposition to attempts to undermine the rule of law. It would really be a terrible blow to what remains of judicial independence if they were neutered,” he said.
There are still dozens of Kurdish politicians behind bars in Turkey, including parliamentarians, mayors and the party’s former co-chairs. The HDP released a statement following the arrests of Guven and Farisogullari, and said: “Turkey now witnesses yet another coup — this pro-coup mindset has been prevailing in parliament for 26 years.”