Iran bemoans ill-discipline as coronavirus cases crest again

Iranians shop the capital Tehran on June 2, 2020 during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Iran today lamented that people were ignoring social distancing rules as it reported more than 3,000 new coronavirus infections in a second cresting wave. (AFP)
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Updated 03 June 2020

Iran bemoans ill-discipline as coronavirus cases crest again

  • Infections have been on a rising trajectory in Iran since hitting a near two-month low on May 2

TEHRAN: Iran on Tuesday lamented that people were ignoring social distancing rules as it reported more than 3,000 new coronavirus infections in a second cresting wave.

“The fact that people have become completely careless regarding this disease” was of great concern, said Health Minister Saeed Namaki.

“They either have total confidence in us or think the coronavirus has gone. The latter is not true at all,” the ISNA news agency quoted him as saying.

His remarks came as Iranian Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said 3,117 new cases were confirmed in Iran in the past 24 hours.

This had brought the overall caseload to 157,562, he added.

Infections have been on a rising trajectory in the Islamic republic since hitting a near two-month low on May 2. They were at their highest on March 30 after hitting 3,186.

Jahanpour said the virus had claimed another 64 lives in the past day, raising the overall death toll to 7,942.

The latest caseload was close to the highest daily count for the Middle East’s deadliest outbreak of COVID-19.

The government has largely lifted the restrictions it imposed to stem the outbreak that first emerged in mid-February.

Experts both at home and abroad have voiced scepticism about Iran’s official figures, saying the real toll could be much higher.


New board of directors appointed to run Lebanon’s ‘corrupt’ state power company

Updated 08 July 2020

New board of directors appointed to run Lebanon’s ‘corrupt’ state power company

  • Regulation of electricity sector a key condition of international bailout for collapsing economy

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s government finally appointed a new board of directors on Tuesday to control the state-owned electricity company.
Electricite du Liban (EDL) has long been mired in allegations of corruption and fraud. Its annual losses of up to $2 billion a year are the biggest single drain on state finances as Lebanon faces economic collapse and the plunging value of its currency.
Reform of the electricity sector has been a key demand of the International Monetary Fund and potential donor states before they will consider a financial bailout.
“Lebanon’s electricity policy has been inefficient and ineffective for decades — always on the brink of collapse, but staying afloat with last minute patchwork solutions,” said Kareem Chehayeb of the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy in Washington, DC.
“The economic crisis has made fuel imports more expensive, causing a shortage, with external generator providers hiking their prices or seeking business in Syria. It is a wake-up call to decades of overspending and poor planning of a basic public service.”
The World Bank has described the electricity sector in Lebanon as “tainted with corruption and waste,” and the IMF said “canceling the subsidy to electricity is the most important potential saving in spending.”
Electricity rationing was applied for the first time to hospitals and the law courts, but Minister of Energy Raymond Ghajar said: “The first vessel loaded with diesel for power plants has arrived, and as of Wednesday the power supply will improve.”
Prime Minister Hassan Diab promised the Lebanese people on Tuesday that they would see the results of government efforts to resolve the country’s financial chaos “in the coming weeks.”
Addressing a Cabinet meeting, Diab said: “The glimmer of hope is growing.” However, the appointment of an  EDF board of directors was criticized by opposition politicians. Former prime minister Najib Mikati said the appointments meant “the crime of wrong prevailing over right … is being repeated.”