Sea and air shipping to Lebanon uninterrupted by virus chaos

Lebanon's Middle East Airlines (MEA) planes are parked on the tarmac of Beirut International Airport amid restrictions to combat the coronavirus across the country on March 19, 2020. Lebanon urged people to stay at home for two weeks and closed the main airport to stem a novel coronavirus outbreak. (AFP)
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Updated 24 March 2020

Sea and air shipping to Lebanon uninterrupted by virus chaos

  • Lebanese people are still confining themselves to their homes under the monitoring of the army and security forces, which were put in charge of reporting any violation of the lockdown

BEIRUT: Lebanon remains open to naval and air shipping despite interruptions from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Meanwhile, health and security authorities are struggling to prevent the virus from spinning out of control.
On Monday, there was a slight increase in the number of new cases, with the Ministry of Health announcing that the total number of infections was 256 cases.
Lebanese Minister of Health Dr. Hamad Hassan said: “80 of 160 beds are vacant in Rafik Hariri University Hospital, designated to receive cases of infection by the coronavirus.”
Lebanese lawmaker Michel Moawad announced on Monday that the number of infections has increased in the northern district of Zgharta and that “a total lockdown will be imposed on the region.”
Lebanese people are still confining themselves to their homes under the monitoring of the army and security forces, which were put in charge of reporting any violation of the lockdown.
Monday saw the first recorded case among UN Interim Force In Lebanon (UNIFIL) forces, with one of its soldiers contracting the virus. He was confined at the UNIFIL hospital in Naqoura. Andrea Tenenti, UNIFIL spokesperson, said that all precautions were taken to prevent the spread of the virus, adding that the soldier was on leave and returned on March 15, and that he was immediately quarantined.
Four other soldiers who were in direct contact with the infected soldier were put in confinement. Tests were done on all four, with three testing negative. UNIFIL is still waiting for the result of the fourth soldier.
A meeting was held on Monday in the Port of Beirut to decide measures to prevent the spread of the virus. The port management declared its commitment to providing masks and other protection materials for visitors.
Hassan Koraytem, managing director of the Port of Beirut, said: “The port building, offices and entrances controlled by the army, general security, customs and state security will all be sterilized.”
He added that “a circular will be issued to all shipping and goods clearing companies not to deploy personnel who are more vulnerable to the disease than others, especially people above 60 with chronic diseases.”

FASTFACT

On Monday, there was a slight increase in the number of new cases.

Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport is still receiving cargo airplanes from other countries, including Qatar. Measures were taken in order to ensure that no worker would contract the virus while on duty.
The airport was closed to air traffic last Wednesday until March 29 as part of measures taken by the government. They included the closure of all land and sea crossings.

Those exempt from the restrictions include: Military airplanes, air ambulances, cargo planes, aircraft transporting accredited diplomatic missions in Lebanon, UNIFIL forces and employees of companies associated with oil exploration operations.
The landing of a Qatari cargo plane at Beirut airport on the night of March 20 — after the closure of the airport — has caused outrage on social media, as the Qatari flight was coming from Tehran, which has been heavily afflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The airport is still receiving cargo planes from Qatari, Ethiopian, DHL, Italian LUX and Global Atlas airlines, which operates two or three annual flights between New York and Beirut.
“These air cargo planes ship various goods to Lebanon, including cars, medicine, medical supplies and mail,” Kris Kashouh, editor of a Lebanon plane spotters website, told Arab News.
Regarding the Qatari plane from Tehran, Kashouh said: “This plane does not come directly from Doha, and it always has many stops before reaching Beirut, including Tehran and Abidjan. It carries livestock and other types of goods.”
Qatar Airways declared in a statement that “the flight, using an Airbus A330-200F type, is limited to air freight and does not transport passengers.”

 


Moscow push to reduce UN cross-border aid to Syria fails

Updated 38 min 24 sec ago

Moscow push to reduce UN cross-border aid to Syria fails

  • Moscow wanted to abolish the first crossing point and put a time limit of six months on the second
  • The resolution received only four votes

United Nations, United States: A Russian bid to get the United Nations to reduce cross-border humanitarian aid to war-torn Syria was voted down by the Security Council Wednesday, an official said.
Authorization for the aid, which comes through two crossing points on the Turkish border — at Bab Al-Salam, which leads to the Aleppo region, and Bab Al-Hawa, which serves the Idlib region — expires Friday.
Under its resolution, Moscow had wanted to abolish the first crossing point and put a time limit of six months on the second.
Russia needed nine votes and no veto from a permanent member of the Council to get its resolution passed — but received only four votes, announced the President of the Security Council, German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen.
Seven countries voted against it and four abstained. “The draft resolution has not been adopted, having failed to obtain the required number of votes,” Heusgen said.
Diplomats said that Russia, along with China, Vietnam and South Africa, had voted for the resolution.
Against were the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium, Estonia and the Dominican Republic.
Tunisia, Niger, Indonesia and Saint Vincent abstained, the diplomats said.
The vote came after Russia and China on Tuesday vetoed a draft resolution by Germany and Belgium providing for a one-year extension of the cross-border authorization and the maintenance of both crossing points.
In an interview with AFP on Wednesday, Washington’s ambassador to the UN, Kelly Craft, said the US opposed any reduction.
“We know the right thing to do is to have both border crossings in the northwest remain open to reach the maximum amount of Syrians that are in need of humanitarian aid,” Craft told AFP.
When asked if the issue was a “red line,” she replied, “Yes, absolutely.”
Russia’s move “is just another attempt for them to politicize humanitarian assistance,” she said.
According to Craft, keeping only one border crossing open would cut off 1.3 million people living north of Aleppo from humanitarian aid.
The choice to be made between the Western position and that of Russia and China is “between good and evil, right and wrong,” said Craft, noting that Germany and Belgium “already have a new draft in mind and we are very supportive.”
The two European countries submitted their new draft Wednesday evening. In their latest draft text, obtained by AFP, Germany and Belgium asked for just a six-month extension of cross-border aid authorization, instead of one year.
But they have kept both border crossings open, and there is no indication that Moscow — in a position of strength on the subject, as it was six months ago — will be satisfied with the changes.
The result of a forthcoming vote on the new draft, which Russia could again block, is not expected until Friday, when the UN cross-border authorization expires.
Craft in 2019 visited one of the crossing points from the Turkish side near Bab Al-Hawa, an experience that made a lasting impression and made working with displaced Syrians “a personal issue,” she said.
Authorization for cross-border humanitarian aid has existed since 2014, with periodic extensions.
Tuesday’s vote was the 15th time that Russia has used its veto since the start of the Syrian war in 2011, and the ninth for China.
They argue that the UN authorization violates Syria’s sovereignty, and that aid can increasingly be channeled through Syrian authorities.