Lebanon announces local lockdowns as COVID-19 cases rise

Lebanon announces local lockdowns as COVID-19 cases rise
A man sits outside of a currency exchange shop in Beirut, Lebanon, June 15, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 02 October 2020

Lebanon announces local lockdowns as COVID-19 cases rise

Lebanon announces local lockdowns as COVID-19 cases rise
  • The Ministry of Interior will implement a total lockdown in 20 towns in the north, 60 in Mount Lebanon, 10 in the south, six in the Nabatiyeh district, and 15 in Bekaa starting from 1 a.m. on Oct. 4 until 6 a.m. on Oct. 12
  • All public institutions, government departments, and places of worship in those locations will be closed, and all social events, parties, gatherings, and religious events will be banned

BEIRUT: Lebanon recorded 1,284 new cases of COVID-19 on Oct. 1, having recorded a total of 22,326 cases in September, prompting the Ministry of Interior to announce on Friday that 111 towns and villages will be placed in lockdown on Sunday. There have now been more than 40,000 cases overall in Lebanon since Feb. 21, with 374 deaths.

The number of cases among healthcare professionals has risen to 1,041, and, up until last Thursday, Lebanon ranked 65th globally in the number of COVID-19 cases and 81st in the number of deaths from the virus.

The Ministry of Interior will implement a total lockdown in 20 towns in the north, 60 in Mount Lebanon, 10 in the south, six in the Nabatiyeh district, and 15 in Bekaa starting from 1 a.m. on Oct. 4 until 6 a.m. on Oct. 12. All public institutions, government departments, and places of worship in those locations will be closed, and all social events, parties, gatherings, and religious events will be banned.

Mount Lebanon has the highest number of cases (4,979), while Beirut has 4,798 as of Thursday.

Caretaker Interior Minister Mohammad Fahmy said: “The reason for this measure is the new reality of the pandemic and the increasing number of cases, which exceeded the permissible rates in proportion to the number of residents.”

He added that this measure should “enable the teams of the Ministry of Health to conduct the necessary laboratory tests and tracing.”

The ministry is concerned by the fact that it has been unable to identify the sources of 7,311 cases so far.

The specified locations include cities which host administrative centers that provide basic services to the areas in which they are located, including Chtoura, Saadnayel, Barelias, Bekaa and Bint Jbeil in the south, as well as neighborhoods in the southern suburbs of Beirut, including Hadath, Haret Hreik and Chyah.

Pierre Abi Hanna, head of infectious diseases at Rafic Hariri Hospital, told Arab News: “Controlling the virus requires several weeks of lockdown — one week will not be enough. The situation is difficult and the infection is spreading. There are more than a thousand daily cases, and ten percent of them may need to be hospitalized. This number is a challenge for hospitals because it is daily, and the patient may need to stay in the hospital for two days or for a week.

“Eighty to ninety percent of the cases are mild, and the sources of infection are still mainly caused by not committing to the preventive measures,” he continued. “It turns out that it is mainly young people spreading the infection. They catch the virus when they meet with friends and pass it on to their families at home. Commitment to face covering varies from one region to another. The elderly continue to top the list of the virus’ victims, but we have also witnessed the death of patients in their twenties and forties who were in good health before contracting the virus.”

Abi Hanna also stressed that cases of seasonal flu — due to begin soon — will likely be decreased if people “stick to wearing face coverings.”

There is a shortage of influenza vaccinations, according to Lebanese pharmacies, due to confusion over the regulations about importing medicines from abroad and the expectation that the central bank will soon cancel subsidies for basic materials including medicine.

Assem Araji, the head of the Lebanese Parliament's health committee, said: “The subsidy on medicine should not be removed — not now nor in the future — because removing subsidies is a very dangerous act and will lead to great chaos that we may not be able to control.”

Araji said that 75,000 doses of flu vaccine have already arrived in Lebanon, 60,000 of which will be distributed while the rest will be reserved for “necessary cases.” He expects 300,000 further doses to arrive in the near future.

“There is a global shortage of influenza vaccine, in addition to the confusion that importers face in securing the vaccine to Lebanon,” he said. “And the percentage of those requesting this vaccine may increase much more this year.”

Addressing the Interior Ministry’s announcement of local lockdowns, Araji said: “Placing certain areas — or the whole country — into lockdown is insufficient when people are not committing to preventive measures. We are tired of saying 'Wear a facemask.’ There is a patient in urgent need of a ventilator and he suffers from COVID-19, but, for days, we have been unable to find an unoccupied ventilator in any of Beirut’s hospitals.”


How scrap metal scavengers have revived Lebanon’s garbage crisis

 How scrap metal scavengers have revived Lebanon’s garbage crisis
Updated 43 min 39 sec ago

How scrap metal scavengers have revived Lebanon’s garbage crisis

 How scrap metal scavengers have revived Lebanon’s garbage crisis
  • The hunt for metal is taking place amid soaring unemployment and a dollar shortage in the small Mediterranean country

Lebanon’s waste management system is the newest target in a trend of metal thefts that officials believe are being carried out by residents rendered desperate by the country’s unprecedented economic collapse.

The latest casualty? One of two landfills servicing the greater Beirut area was forced to shut down over the past week because of rogue scavengers.

The landfill, located in Jdeideh, on the outskirts of the capital, had become a hunting ground for residents scouring for metal and other valuables that can fetch a hefty price on the market.

For decades, Lebanon has been producing more waste than it could manage, culminating in mountains of trash filling streets in 2015 as mass protests erupted condemning the government’s failure to come up with an effective waste management strategy.

Built in 2018 for what was supposed to be a temporary fix to the region’s endemic garbage problem, the landfill has undergone numerous expansions as authorities failed to conjure up a sustainable solid waste management plan.

Instead, successive governments have elected to keep piling trash higher, reaching a height of some 20 meters.

Toufic Kazmouz, the project manager at a local contracting company managing the landfill, told Arab News that the landfill was being expanded while still receiving 1,200 tons of garbage per day before being forced to shut down.

“This is definitely not a sustainable solution to the garbage problem, but the scavengers have made it even worse and have forced us to close shop,” Kazmouz said.

Hundreds of people were trespassing into the landfill daily, he said, forcing the company to halt both construction and operations last week.

According to Kazmouz, scavengers would wait patiently for a dump truck to empty its load before entering the site, armed with plastic bags.

Several scuffles had erupted between scavengers and workers in an environment filled with heavy machinery and equipment.

“It’s simply become an unsafe work environment for everyone involved,” Kazmouz said.

With the landfill shut down, piles of garbage have lined the streets of the Metn and Kesourwan districts after the waste management company Ramco stopped collecting trash.

“We stopped collecting trash because we had nowhere to dispose of it,” Walid Bou Saad, director of Ramco, told Arab News.

Scavengers have forced Kazmouz to shut down the landfill twice since April, despite both the “Internal Security Forces and Lebanese intelligence sending patrols to cordon off the area.”

Discussions are currently ongoing with the Interior Ministry to increase security, he said.

“Municipality workers are expected to be stationed at the site starting today, but we’ll face the same problem again later,” Kazmouz noted.

The hunt for metal is taking place amid soaring unemployment and a dollar shortage in the small Mediterranean country that has caused the local currency to lose some 90 percent of its value while the prices of basic goods and commodities skyrocket.

“It’s metal,” Kazmouz pointed out. “People are really suffering and looking for any means to make some money.” 

Metal has become an increasingly valuable commodity in Lebanon, with desperate residents even stealing manhole covers and metal supports from electricity pylons.

Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud told AFP in February that he attributed the theft of manhole covers to the fact that they “are made out of cast iron, which has become much more expensive.”

The covers, weighing up to 60 kg, can fetch up to $100 when sold for scrap. At the current black-market rate, this is equivalent to some LL1.5 million, or more than double the current monthly minimum wage.

The dire situation has also pushed thieves to target Lebanon’s already deficient electricity grid, causing the collapse of a 55-meter pylon connecting one of the country’s four power plants to the region of the Bekaa.

After its metal supports had been stolen, the pylon was no match for the high winds that blew across Lebanon in the winter season.


Train collision in Alexandria leaves several injured, local reports say

Train collision in Alexandria leaves several injured, local reports say
Updated 22 June 2021

Train collision in Alexandria leaves several injured, local reports say

Train collision in Alexandria leaves several injured, local reports say

CAIRO: Scores were injured in a train collision in Alexandria on Tuesday morning, Egyptian media reports say.

Al Arabiya TV reported that two people were killed in the  incident, citing their local correspondent.  

The two trains collided near “Mahatet Masr” and the transportation ministry will release more information. 


Palestinians, Jewish settlers clash in tense Jerusalem neighborhood

Palestinians, Jewish settlers clash in tense Jerusalem neighborhood
Updated 22 June 2021

Palestinians, Jewish settlers clash in tense Jerusalem neighborhood

Palestinians, Jewish settlers clash in tense Jerusalem neighborhood
  • Settler groups are trying to evict several Palestinian families
  • Threatened evictions fueled protests and clashes in the runup to last month’s 11-day Gaza war

JERUSALEM: Palestinians and Jewish settlers hurled stones, chairs and fireworks at each other overnight in a tense Jerusalem neighborhood where settler groups are trying to evict several Palestinian families, officials said Tuesday.
The threatened evictions fueled protests and clashes in the runup to last month’s 11-day Gaza war and pose a test for Israel’s new governing coalition, which includes three pro-settler parties but is hoping to sideline the Palestinian issue to avoid internal divisions.
Israeli police and border officials said they arrested four suspects in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. It was unclear who started the brawl. One woman was reportedly injured when she was hit in the back by a stone, police said.
The Red Crescent emergency service said its crews treated 20 Palestinians, including 16 suffering from pepper spray and tear gas and others wounded by rubber-coated bullets. Two other people were wounded, including an elderly man who was hit in the head, it said.
The Red Crescent said settlers threw stones at one of its ambulances and Israeli forces sprayed skunk water on a second ambulance belonging to the service.
The eruption of violence is the latest friction in Sheikh Jarrah, where weeks of unrest captured international attention ahead of the 11-day Israel-Hamas war last month. The cease-fire took effect on May 21, but the long-running campaign by Jewish settlers to evict dozens of Palestinian families continues.
And so the cycle of tension endures, in a stark early test for Israel’s new coalition government, which is just over a week old.
At the helm under a rotation agreement is Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, head of the right-wing Yamina party. In two years, he’ll be replaced by Yair Lapid, leader of centrist Yesh Atid. And leading the opposition is Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, ousted from the premiership after holding the post for 12 years.
An intervention by Israel’s attorney general at the height of the unrest has put the most imminent evictions on hold. But rights groups say evictions could still proceed in the coming months as international attention wanes, potentially igniting another round of bloodshed.
The settlers have been waging a decades-long campaign to evict the families from densely populated Palestinian neighborhoods in the so-called Holy Basin just outside the walls of the Old City, in one of the most sensitive parts of east Jerusalem.
Israel captured east Jerusalem, home to holy sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, in the 1967 war and annexed it in a move not recognized internationally. Israel views the entire city as its capital, while the Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.
The settlers say the homes are built on land that was owned by Jews prior to the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation. Israeli law allows Jews to reclaim such property, a right denied to Palestinians who lost lands and homes in the same conflict.


Houthi’s escalation of violence, rejection of peace, will not go unpunished: Yemen leaders

Houthi’s escalation of violence, rejection of peace, will not go unpunished: Yemen leaders
Updated 22 June 2021

Houthi’s escalation of violence, rejection of peace, will not go unpunished: Yemen leaders

Houthi’s escalation of violence, rejection of peace, will not go unpunished: Yemen leaders
  • Group’s military escalation in Yemen as well as attacks against Saudi Arabia undermine peace efforts

DUBAI: The Houthi escalation in attacks in Yemen and Saudi Arabia will not go unpunished and government forces are ready to thwart the Iran-backed group’s violence after its rejection of peace efforts, senior Yemeni officials said.

The government and the Yemeni people stand with all their capabilities behind the national army, the popular resistance and the tribesmen until the restoration of the state and ending the Houthi group and its racist project supported by Iran, Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik said, state news agency Saba reported.

The escalation in the attacks carried out by the Houthi militia and its repeated targeting of those displaced and the civilians in Marib, Hodeidah and elsewhere, as well as against civilian targets in Saudi Arabia, will not go unpunished, Abdulmalik added.

Muamar Al-Eryani, the minister of information, culture and tourism, stressed that the group’s military escalation in Yemen as well as attacks against Saudi Arabia have undermined peace efforts or worse, a rejection of peaceful solutions.

“This hysteric and dangerous escalation confirms Houthi militia’s continuation of its coup and loyalty to Iranian agenda and destructive policies aiming at spreading chaos and terrorism in the region,” Al-Eryani said in a statement.

Al-Eryani added that the military escalation coincided with the recruitment of child soldiers and brainwashing them in summer camps, and again called on the international community to denounce the violence and pressure the militia to respond to peace efforts.


Egypt affirms support for Libya

Egypt affirms support for Libya
Libyan Government of National Accord fighters stand guard at the reopening of a road between Misrata and Sirte. (AFP)
Updated 22 June 2021

Egypt affirms support for Libya

Egypt affirms support for Libya
  • Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi stresses full support toward efforts to restore security and stability to Libya

CAIRO: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has affirmed that restoring Libya’s sovereignty begins with the withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries, stressing Egypt’s full support for these efforts during all its actions at the bilateral, regional and international levels.
During his meeting with the Libyan foreign minister, Najla El Mangoush, in Cairo, President El-Sisi affirmed Egypt’s full support for the Presidential Council and the Libyan Government of National Unity during the transitional period with the aim of restoring security and stability to Libya, leading to holding national elections in December. He said that this is an essential step on the path to a political settlement of the Libyan crisis by activating the free will of the Libyan people.
He affirmed Egypt’s firm support for preserving the territorial integrity of Libya, safeguarding the capabilities of the Libyan people, and not interfering in Libya’s internal affairs.
The Libyan foreign minister expressed the Libyan government’s appreciation of the Egyptian role in the region and Egypt’s tireless efforts to support its brothers in Libya, which stem from the principles of preserving the unity of the Libyan territories and restoring stability and preserving the national institutions of the Libyan state.
These include the unification of the military establishment, the end of foreign interference, the exit of all mercenaries and foreign fighters, and the establishment of the principles of dialogue between the Libyan parties.
These include the unification of the military establishment, the end of foreign interference, the exit of all mercenaries and foreign fighters from Libya, the establishment of the principles of dialogue between the Libyan parties, support for national reconciliation in preparation for fair and transparent elections.
She commended Egypt’s support of efforts to settle the Libyan crisis, in light of the historical ties between the two countries.

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