Lebanon begins new lockdown amid surge in coronavirus cases

Lebanon begins new lockdown amid surge in coronavirus cases
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Police issue fines to civilians violating health safety measures on the waterfront promenade in Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. (AP)
Lebanon begins new lockdown amid surge in coronavirus cases
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A view of Beirut's waterfront promenade sits deserted as Lebanon starts a new lockdown amid a record post-holiday surge of new coronavirus cases on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. (AP)
Lebanon begins new lockdown amid surge in coronavirus cases
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A policeman books a driver for having violated the lockdown imposed by the authorities in a bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus, in the town of Antelias, east of the Lebanese capital Beirut, on January 7, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 07 January 2021

Lebanon begins new lockdown amid surge in coronavirus cases

Lebanon begins new lockdown amid surge in coronavirus cases
  • The lockdown in Lebanon is the third since the first case was reported in late February
  • As of Thursday, a daily 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew takes effect that will last until Feb. 1

BEIRUT: Lebanon began a 25-day nationwide lockdown Thursday to limit the spread of the coronavirus as infections hit a record in the tiny Mediterranean nation and patients overwhelm the health care sector.
In Israel, the government prepared for a two-week shutdown as the country’s infection rate soars.
The lockdown in Lebanon is the third since the first case was reported in late February. It closes most businesses and limits traffic by imposing an odd and even license plate rule on alternating days. It also reduces the number of flights at the country’s only international airport.
As of Thursday, a daily 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew takes effect that will last until Feb. 1.
On Wednesday, Lebanon broke its single-day record of new coronavirus infections on the eve of the lockdown with 4,166 cases reported in 24 hours.
It came after a holiday season in which tens of thousands of visitors flying into the country to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s. Lebanon also reported 21 new coronavirus deaths Wednesday, bringing the number of total coronavirus cases in the small Mediterranean country to nearly 200,000, with more than 1,500 deaths.
“The best way to limit the spread is to stay at home,” outgoing Health Minister Hamad Hassan told the local LBC TV station.
In Beirut’s commercial Hamra district, many shops were closed Thursday morning as police patrols drove by to make sure the lockdown was implemented. Police checkpoints fined motorists who violated the lockdown orders.
First responders in the country hit by a severe economic crisis say they have been transporting nearly 100 patients a day to hospitals that are now reporting near-full occupancy in beds and intensive care units.
Lebanon saw new infections begin to increase during the summer, following a massive explosion in Beirut’s port in August that shook the city and its heath sector, killing over 200 people and injuring 6,000. August’s numbers increased by over 300% from July as a result and have been climbing since.
The new lockdown comes as Lebanon was already struggling with an unprecedented economic and financial crisis that has caused it to default on debt and sent its local currency plunging, losing 80% of its value to the dollar.
The shortage of hard currency in Lebanon has severely curbed imports to the import-dependent country, including medicine and medical supplies. Many medicines are missing at pharmacies as the crisis worsens.
Israel’s government Thursday finalized a series of strict lockdown measures as the country’s infection rate has soared in recent weeks.
For two weeks starting Thursday night, Israeli schools and all non-essential businesses will shut down, gatherings will be restricted to five persons indoors and 10 outdoors, and movement and travel abroad restricted.
Israel has recorded over 466,000 cases of the coronavirus and at least 3,527 deaths, according to the health ministry. The number of serious COVID-19 cases has steadily risen in the past month, even as Israel started rolling out vaccines to high risk populations, including health care workers and the elderly.
Israeli Health Minister Yuli Edelstein wrote on Twitter on Thursday that the country had already vaccinated nearly 1.6 million citizens, over 17% of the population.
In Egypt, Coptic Orthodox Christians were barred from attending Mass on Christmas Eve as the country fights a surge in coronavirus cases.
The church canceled celebrations around the country and allowed only a limited number of clerics at Midnight Mass on the eve of Orthodox Christmas. Copts celebrate Christmas according to the Julian calendar, meaning it falls on Jan. 7.
Egypt has reported more than 145,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, including nearly 8,000 deaths. However, the actual number of COVID-19 cases in Egypt is thought to be far higher, mostly due to limited testing and uncounted patients treated at home or in private hospitals.


Israel vaccinate Palestinians with Israeli work permits against COVID-19

Israel vaccinate Palestinians with Israeli work permits against COVID-19
Updated 38 min 50 sec ago

Israel vaccinate Palestinians with Israeli work permits against COVID-19

Israel vaccinate Palestinians with Israeli work permits against COVID-19
  • Palestinian medical teams would be stationed at checkpoints to administer the vaccines
  • Of the 5.2 million people, only 32,000 have received the vaccine to date

JERUSALEM: Israel will administer COVID-19 vaccines to Palestinians who work in Israel or in its settlements in the occupied West Bank, the Israeli liaison office COGAT said on Sunday.
The vaccination campaign, which could apply to around 130,000 Palestinians, will begin within days, COGAT said.
Shaher Saad, secretary-general of the Palestinian Workers’ Union, said thousands of Palestinians who work in the Israeli service and industrial sectors had already been vaccinated privately by their employers inside Israel.
He said Palestinian medical teams would be stationed at checkpoints to administer the vaccines, by agreement with Israeli authorities.
Israel has given at least one dose of the Pfizer Inc. vaccine to more than half of its 9.3 million population, including Palestinians in East Jerusalem.
But it has come under international criticism for not doing more to enable vaccination of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, territories that Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
The Palestinians have received around 32,000 vaccine doses to date, for the 5.2 million people who live in the West Bank and Gaza.
Israeli officials have said that, under the Oslo peace accords, the Palestinian health ministry is responsible for vaccinating people in Gaza and those parts of the West Bank where it has limited self-rule.


Jordan ministers sacked for virus rules breach

Jordan ministers sacked for virus rules breach
Updated 28 February 2021

Jordan ministers sacked for virus rules breach

Jordan ministers sacked for virus rules breach
  • The pair were asked to step down by Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh
  • The Jordanian news website Ammon claimed Mobaideen and Talhuni had attended a dinner in a restaurant in Amman with a total of nine people

AMMAN: Jordan’s interior and justice ministers were sacked Sunday for breaching health regulations to stem the spread of coronavirus, with their replacements named by royal decree.
The pair were asked to step down by Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh, a move immediately endorsed by King Abdullah II, according to a statement from the royal palace.
They are accused, according to a government source, of “having violated the emergency law” put in place to curb Covid-19.
The Jordanian news website Ammon claimed interior minister Samir Mobaideen and justice minister Bassam Talhuni had attended a dinner in a restaurant in Amman with a total of nine people, when the law allowed a maximum of six.
Tawfiq Krishan, deputy prime minister and in charge of local administration, was appointed as the new interior minister.
Ahmed Ziyadat, State Secretary for Legal Affairs, was named as justice minister.
Following a surge in virus cases, Jordan toughened this week its Covid-19 restrictions, returning to rules imposed in March last year, and which were only eased last month.
Jordan, which began vaccinations last month, has officially recorded more than 386,000 novel coronavirus cases and 4,675 deaths out of a population of 10.5 million people.


Turkey summons Iran ambassador over accusations Ankara is violating Iraqi sovereignty: Al Arabiya

Turkey summons Iran ambassador over accusations Ankara is violating Iraqi sovereignty: Al Arabiya
Updated 28 February 2021

Turkey summons Iran ambassador over accusations Ankara is violating Iraqi sovereignty: Al Arabiya

Turkey summons Iran ambassador over accusations Ankara is violating Iraqi sovereignty: Al Arabiya

CAIRO: Turkey has summoned the Iranian ambassador over accusations by Tehran that Ankara is violating Iraqi sovereignty, Al Arabiya TV reported Sunday. 

Turkey said it expects from Tehran to stand by Ankara in “combating terrorism”. 

Last week, Iran summoned the Turkish ambassador in Tehran over comments made by Turkish officials accusing Iran of destabilizing the region by getting involved in Iraq and Syria. 


Iran health ministry says virus deaths cross 60,000 mark

Iran health ministry says virus deaths cross 60,000 mark
Updated 28 February 2021

Iran health ministry says virus deaths cross 60,000 mark

Iran health ministry says virus deaths cross 60,000 mark

Iran's health ministry said the country's coronavirus fatalities broke the 60,000 mark on Sunday, as the Islamic republic battles the Middle East's worst outbreak of the illness.
"Sadly in the past 24 hours, 93 people lost their lives to Covid-19, and total deaths from this disease reached 60,073," health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said in a televised address.
Iran has registered a total of 1,631,169 infections, according to the ministry.


Russian helicopter makes emergency landing in Syria

Russian helicopter makes emergency landing in Syria
Updated 28 February 2021

Russian helicopter makes emergency landing in Syria

Russian helicopter makes emergency landing in Syria
  • Russian Defense Ministry said the helicopter was not fired at

AMMAN/MOSCOW: A Russian Mi-35 helicopter made an emergency landing due to technical problems during a flight over Syria’s northern Hasaka province, state agencies quoted Russia’s Defense Ministry as saying on Sunday.
“The crew was quickly evacuated to the airfield. There is no threat to lives of the pilots,” the RIA news agency cited a Defense Ministry statement as saying.
The helicopter was not fired at, it added.
Syrian state media said earlier there were reports of a Russian helicopter crash in northeast Syria that killed the pilot.
It said the site of the crash was in Hasaka province, near Tal Tamr close to a Russian base.