Lebanon extends lockdown into February as virus numbers rise

Police officers speak to a driver at a checkpoint while inspecting cars for violating a lockdown to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, in Beirut Lebanon, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. (AP)
Police officers speak to a driver at a checkpoint while inspecting cars for violating a lockdown to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, in Beirut Lebanon, Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 21 January 2021

Lebanon extends lockdown into February as virus numbers rise

Lebanon extends lockdown into February as virus numbers rise
  • A steep rise in coronavirus deaths and infections has overwhelmed the health care system
  • Increased testing has also led to the increase in number of confirmed infections

BEIRUT: Authorities in Lebanon on Thursday extended a nationwide lockdown by a week, to Feb. 8, amid a steep rise in coronavirus deaths and infections that has overwhelmed the health care system.
Despite increasing the number of hospital beds in the country of nearly 6 million, doctors and nurses have struggled to keep pace with patients flooding their facilities. Intensive care unit bed occupancy has been rising, hitting 91% late Wednesday, according to the World Health Organization.
Registered daily infections have hovered around 5,000 since the holiday season, up from nearly 1,000 in November. The overall death toll has surpassed 2,000, with new fatalities numbering between 40 and 60 deaths a day in the past week.
Doctors say with increased testing, the number of confirmed infections has also increased, recording a positivity rate of over 20% for every 100 tests. Nurses and doctors are overwhelmed, and more than 2,300 health care workers have been infected since February.
Lebanon has yet to carry out any vaccinations. The government finalized a deal with Pfizer last week for vaccines that will arrive in early February. The World Bank said Thursday it approved $34 million to help pay for vaccines for Lebanon that will inoculate over 2 million people.
The steep rise in infections and deaths comes despite the strict lockdown in place since Jan. 14. On Thursday, the government decided to extend that lockdown, which was due to expire Feb. 1, by a week.
The government vowed to re-examine some exemptions amid an outcry from industrialists and businessmen about the impact of closures on the economy.
The health committee consulting with the government on the national plan had recommended a two-week extension of the lockdown.
“Lifting or easing the lockdown at this time will surely lead to a collapse of the health system and result in more deaths. This is unacceptable and unconscionable,” tweeted Dr. Firass Abiad, head of the public hospital leading the fight against the pandemic.
Before the pandemic hit last year, Lebanon was already experiencing a crippling economic and financial crisis that had sparked protests, bank closures and restrictions on capital movement amid a deep foreign currency crunch.
The crisis, coupled with coronavirus restrictions, has sent nearly half of the population into poverty, increased unemployment and forced many businesses to shut or leave the country.
During the holidays, the government eased some restrictions in place hoping to give the economy a boost. Many blame that brief relaxation of measures for the steep rise in infections.


Pope says will make Iraq trip despite rocket attack

Pope says will make Iraq trip despite rocket attack
Updated 11 min 51 sec ago

Pope says will make Iraq trip despite rocket attack

Pope says will make Iraq trip despite rocket attack

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis said Wednesday he still expected to make his historic visit to Iraq in two days time, after a rocket attack on a military base hosting US-led coalition troops.
"The day after tomorrow, God willing, I will go to Iraq for a three-day pilgrimage. For a long time I have wanted to meet these people who have suffered so much," the 84-year-old Francis said in his weekly Wednesday address.
The Argentine pontiff asked for prayers for the trip, the first ever by a pope to Iraq, through which he hopes to encourage the dwindling Christian community to remain in their ancient homeland while broadening his outreach to Islam.
"I ask you to accompany this apostolic journey with your prayers so that it may take place in the best possible way and bear the hoped-for fruits," the pope said.
He added: "The Iraqi people are waiting for us, they were waiting for Saint John Paul II, who was forbidden to go. One cannot disappoint a people for the second time. Let us pray that this journey will be successful."
At least 10 rockets slammed into a military base in western Iraq hosting US-led coalition troops earlier on Wednesday, security sources said, leaving one civilian contractor dead.
The attack on the sprawling Ain al-Assad base in Iraq's western desert comes after several weeks of escalating US-Iran tensions on Iraqi soil.
On Tuesday, a spokesman for Francis said the pope would be travelling by armoured vehicle and that he would not be meeting crowds.
"This is a particular situation, that's why the transports will all be in a closed vehicle, meaning it will be complicated to see the pope on the streets," spokesman Matteo Brunei said.
"There will be a number of meetings but none will be more than a few hundred people," he said.


New government takes oath before Kuwait emir

New government takes oath before Kuwait emir
Updated 10 min 56 sec ago

New government takes oath before Kuwait emir

New government takes oath before Kuwait emir

DUBAI: Kuwait Emir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah called on the executive and legislative authorities in his country to cooperate as a new government took oath before him, according to state-run news agency KUNA. 

Sheikh Nawaf received at his Bayan Palace the prime minister, Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah to swear-in as head of cabinet.
Ministers of the new government were also sworn in.

The previous government had resigned in January.
Oil Minister Mohammad Abdulatif Al-Fares, Finance Minister Khalifa Hamade and Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Sabah were reappointed in the new cabinet.

 


COVID-19: UAE soon one of first countries to vaccinate most of population

COVID-19: UAE soon one of first countries to vaccinate most of population
Updated 03 March 2021

COVID-19: UAE soon one of first countries to vaccinate most of population

COVID-19: UAE soon one of first countries to vaccinate most of population
  • The UAE has been ranked as one of the top countries in coronavirus jabs by Our World in Data
  • It has also approved four coronavirus vaccines

DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates will soon be one of the first countries in the world to vaccinate most of its population against coronavirus, TV channel Al-Arabiya reported.
“With the dedicated effort of the UAE government to combat the pandemic – for which we are truly thankful for, and the willingness of the general public to support the programs led by the government, UAE may soon be the first country to vaccinate its entire population and hence, reach herd immunity,” specialist in emergency medicine at Bareen International Hospital Fouad Al-Rahal told Al-Arabiya English.
The UAE has been ranked as one of the top countries in coronavirus jabs by Our World in Data, a collaboration between researchers at the University of Oxford and the non-profit Global Change Data Lab.
According to Our World in Data, UAE has administered at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to more than 60 percent of its population.
The Gulf state’s National Crisis and Emergency Management Authority reported that over six million vaccine doses have been administered across the seven emirates, with a rate of 60.82 doses per 100 people.
(embed tweet)
The UAE has approved four coronavirus vaccines, the Chinese Sinopharm, US-German Pfizer-BioNTech, UK-Swedish Oxford-AstraZeneca and Russian Sputnik V.


Multiple rockets land at Iraq’s Al-Asad air base that hosts US, coalition forces

Multiple rockets land at Iraq’s Al-Asad air base that hosts US, coalition forces
Updated 03 March 2021

Multiple rockets land at Iraq’s Al-Asad air base that hosts US, coalition forces

Multiple rockets land at Iraq’s Al-Asad air base that hosts US, coalition forces

BAGHDAD: A civilian contractor with the US-led coalition in Iraq died of a heart attack during a rocket attack on a western base on Wednesday, Iraqi and Western security sources said.

At least 10 rockets hit the sprawling Ain al-Assad air base in Anbar province , which hosts United States, coalition and Iraqi forces. The sources could not confirm the contractor's nationality. 
The attack took place at 7:20 am (0420 GMT), coalition spokesman Colonel Wayne Marotto was quoted by AFP as saying.

A Baghdad Operations Command official said earlier that multiple rockets were launched from a location about 8 kilometers from the base.

It was the second rocket attack in Iraq this month and came two days ahead of Pope Francis’s historic visit to Iraq.

The Pope will visit despite deteriorating security in some parts of the country which has seen the first big suicide bombing in Baghdad for three years.

On Feb. 16 a rocket attack on US-led forces in northern Iraq killed a civilian contractor and injured a US service member.

(with Reuters and AFP)


Ten people killed in plane crash in South Sudan

Ten people killed in plane crash in South Sudan
Updated 03 March 2021

Ten people killed in plane crash in South Sudan

Ten people killed in plane crash in South Sudan

JUBA: Ten people, including the two pilots, died when a plane crashed Tuesday at an airstrip in South Sudan’s Jonglei state, the region’s governor said.

“It was with great shock and horror to receive the news of the plane crash (HK-4274) of South Sudan Supreme Airline that happened today the 2nd day of March 2021 at around 5.05 PM at Pieri Airstrip,” Governor Denay Jock Chagor said in a statement sent to AFP Wednesday.

“Ten people including the two pilots lost their lives.”