Coronavirus threatens festive season in Lebanon

Coronavirus threatens festive season in Lebanon
A man and a woman sit back to back on a bench as they enjoy a sunny day near the Beirut seaside promenade on November 24, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 28 November 2020

Coronavirus threatens festive season in Lebanon

Coronavirus threatens festive season in Lebanon
  • Staying at home indeed provides safety for everyone, but in a country like Lebanon, which suffers economically, it’s impossible

BEIRUT: The two-week lockdown in Lebanon to limit the spread of coronavirus ends on Sunday, but the continued high number of infections and deaths may limit the options of the government committee tasked with restoring normal life in the country.

On Saturday, owners of shops, stores, restaurants and cafes protested against measures that would keep their businesses closed, especially as the lucrative festive season approaches.

“If the state decides to continue closing our institutions during the festive season, these tourist establishments will declare their bankruptcy,” Jean Beirouti, secretary-general of the Federation of Tourism Trade Unions, told Arab News.

Darkness prevails in Beirut markets that are usually vibrant at this time of year. “Black Friday didn’t activate any commercial movement,” Yehya Kasaa, chairman of the Lebanese Franchise Association, told Arab News.

“We don’t know how long it will be possible to hold out if a good government isn’t formed. Politics in Lebanon is fighting the economy,” he said.

“Staying at home indeed provides safety for everyone, but in a country like Lebanon, which suffers economically, it’s impossible. People need to work and earn their daily living,” he added.

“The franchise sector used to provide work for 100,000 workers. Now half of them have lost their jobs due to the economic crisis. Moreover, the Beirut Port explosion destroyed 70 percent of the sector, especially in central Beirut, and these shops haven’t reopened yet.”

As of Saturday morning, there were more than 35,000 violations of the lockdown recorded by security forces.

“People are groaning from the difficult economic situation we’re in,” said Col. Joseph Mousallem, head of the Information Branch at the Internal Security Forces.

“The decline in the number of infections hoped by the Ministry of Health didn’t happen during the lockdown.”


US designates Bahrain, UAE ‘major security partners’

US designates Bahrain, UAE ‘major security partners’
Updated 45 min 43 sec ago

US designates Bahrain, UAE ‘major security partners’

US designates Bahrain, UAE ‘major security partners’
  • Bahrain is home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet and hostssome 5,000 American troops
  • UAE hosts 3,500 US troops and its Jebel Ali port is the busiest port of call for American warships outside of the US

DUBAI: The US called Bahrain and the UAE “major security partners” early on Saturday, a previously unheard of designation for the two countries home to major American military operations.
A White House statement tied the designation to Bahrain and the UAE normalizing ties to Israel, saying it “reflects their extraordinary courage, determination and leadership.” It also noted the two countries long have taken part in US military exercises.
It’s unclear what the designation means for Bahrain and the UAE.
Bahrain is home to the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, while the UAE’s Jebel Ali port is the busiest port of call for American warships outside of the US. Bahrain hosts some 5,000 American troops, while the UAE hosts 3,500, many at Al-Dhafra Air Base.
Already, the US uses the designation of “major non-NATO ally” to describe its relationship with Kuwait, which hosts the forward command of US Army Central. That designation grants a country special financial and military considerations for nations not part of NATO. Bahrain also is a non-NATO ally.
The US military’s Central Command and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The 5th Fleet referred queries to the State Department, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The White House designation comes in the final days of President Donald Trump’s administration.
Trump forged close ties to Gulf Arab countries during his time in office in part over his hard-line stance on Iran.
That’s sparked a series of escalating incidents between the countries after Trump unilaterally withdrew from Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
It also comes after Bahrain and the UAE joined Egypt and Saudi Arabia in beginning to resolve a yearslong boycott of Qatar, that houses Al-Udeid Air Base.