Lebanon’s tourism sector seeks relief to recover from lockdown

Lebanon’s tourism sector seeks relief to recover from lockdown
A city sightseeing bus is pictured parked outside Beirut's landmark Mohammad al-Amin mosque on May 20, 2019. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 03 May 2021

Lebanon’s tourism sector seeks relief to recover from lockdown

Lebanon’s tourism sector seeks relief to recover from lockdown
  • Authorities urged to ease measures on outdoor spaces

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s tourism sector is seeking an ease in lockdown restrictions so businesses can stay afloat, amid warnings from medical experts and health officials to pay heed to India’s coronavirus catastrophe to avert a deeper crisis.

Jean Beiruti, secretary-general of the Tourism and Trade Unions Federation, said Lebanon had succeeded in gradually reducing the number of COVID-19 infections which would encourage tourism establishments to soon resume their work.

“We call on the authorities to ease measures in open places such as swimming pools, restaurants and outdoor cafes, and extend the opening times until after midnight instead of 9:30 p.m.,” he told Arab News.

Although domestic tourism did not cover all losses, it was sufficient to keep the sector going, he said.

Beiruti said that Lebanon was facing challenging times because of the pandemic and a “stifling economic crisis.”

The crisis had caused 50 percent of tourism establishments to close down or suffer severely, he added, and the tourism sector constituted 20 percent of national income.

“Our problem today is political. If the difficulties are resolved, the country will recover economically. But until the matter is resolved, we depend today on domestic tourism.”

His remarks came as daily Ministry of Health statistics indicated a decrease in the number of deaths and new coronavirus infections. It will resume a total lockdown and curfew for the upcoming Eid Al-Fitr holiday.

Lebanon’s total number of coronavirus infections exceed 500,000 and the death toll has reached 7,278.

“Despite all the improvement in the pandemic situation in Lebanon, we are still in the fourth pandemic classification, which is a dangerous classification,” said Dr. Abdul Rahman Bizri, who heads the National Committee for the Administration of the Coronavirus Vaccine.

But the country could move to a different classification if the number of infections continued to decrease, he added.

Our problem today is political. If the difficulties are resolved, the country will recover economically. But until the matter is resolved, we depend today on domestic tourism.

Jean Beiruti

“We may move to the third classification, which means that gatherings will be allowed for 10 people, more customers will be allowed in restaurants and the opening times of tourism and commercial establishments will be prolonged," he told Arab News. "We may, within a month or two, reach the second classification but it depends on the implementation of measures similarly in all regions, and this is what we see happening during the implementation of the total lockdown so far."

He emphasized that citizens needed to understand that they were the “basis for confronting coronavirus.”

Lebanon’s vaccination rollout is no more than 6.3 percent through the Ministry of Health’s program, in addition to the programs being carried out by the private sector at its own expense to vaccinate workers.

These efforts raise the vaccination rollout to approximately 10 percent for the first dose and 3.5 percent for the second.

But Bizri considered this percentage to be “impressive” and attributed the slow inoculation rate to the late arrival of vaccine batches.

He anticipated that a million doses would arrive in June but insisted that people needed to stick to preventive measures while immunity was being built up.

Health Minister Hamad Hassan announced on Sunday that Lebanon had taken measures to restrict the spread of the Indian variant by making travelers from there observe a 14-day quarantine in a third country before entering Lebanese territory.

Although the virus spread rapidly, it had the same symptoms and the existing vaccines covered it, the minister said.

Dr. Firas Al-Abyad is the director of the Hariri Governmental University Hospital, which specializes in receiving coronavirus patients.

He warned of “indolence” with preventive measures and “individual recklessness,” stressing the need to draw lessons from India’s COVID-19 catastrophe in order to avert a deeper crisis in Lebanon.

“The virus comes as a wave, but sometimes it comes like a tsunami. This is what happened in India. The acquired immunity from previous infections does not last for a long time and vaccination rates are low, which does not help in reaching the required community immunity. Our situation is not better than the situation in India, which has a good health system, but the tidal wave of coronavirus led to the collapse of this system.”

Lebanon had almost faced a similar situation, he added, but came back from “the edge of the abyss.”

 


Lebanon spends Eid Al-Fitr under strict quarantine

Lebanon spends Eid Al-Fitr under strict quarantine
Updated 31 min 42 sec ago

Lebanon spends Eid Al-Fitr under strict quarantine

Lebanon spends Eid Al-Fitr under strict quarantine
  • Authorities allow only 30 percent capacity at mosques for the Eid prayers as worshippers spread out in the open-air squares in central Beirut
  • Religious leader raps errors of government and warns of ‘revolt of the hungry’ during holiday sermon

BEIRUT: Eid Al-Fitr celebrations in Lebanon were very scarce on Thursday as the country was in the middle of a two-day total closure and curfew to combat the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

As people avoided gatherings in homes and public places during what is supposed to be a joyous time, one prominent religious leader expressed fear during his Eid sermon.

“People will starve as a result of the errors and sins of the government, and from an explosion or social violence, which will lead to the revolt of the hungry,” said Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian, grand mufti of Lebanon.

“When this happens, remorse will not be helpful.”

He also accused “political officials of regressing to low levels of violating the constitution, striking the judiciary, resorting to sectarian delusions, and dividing citizens.”

The joy of Eid could not be seen on the faces of the Lebanese people as living conditions continue to deteriorate in a country gripped in financial and political turmoil. 

Authorities allowed only 30 percent capacity at mosques for the Eid prayers as worshippers spread out in the open-air squares surrounding the Al-Amin Mosque in central Beirut.

The prayers were led by Sheikh Derian as Lebanon’s caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab were among the many who participated in the prayer.

The Israeli-Gaza violence and unrest dominated the Eid sermon, but the political reality and the poor living conditions within Lebanon were also addressed in the sermon from Sheikh Derian.

“The collapse and devastation that we are living through it can only be stopped by the birth of a government that addresses the corruption and decay that Lebanon has seen for the first time in decades,” Mufti Derian said. “We need a government that carries out the required reforms. Anything else counts as deception.”

He also criticized “those working in public political affairs for failing their citizens when they indulged in corruption and prevented the formation of a government capable of stopping the collapse, beginning reconstruction, and seeking help from the international community.”

It was noticeable that the Arab and Islamic diplomatic presence was absent from the central Eid prayer in downtown Beirut.

The Saudi ambassador to Lebanon, Walid Bukhari, performed Eid prayers in the garden of his residence in the Yarze district while a number of ambassadors of Arab and Islamic countries and embassy staff joined him. The embassy took the initial precautionary measures related to the coronavirus.

Measures to remove subsidies on more subsidized food commodities, fuel and medicines added even more concern to a continuing list of hardships experienced by the Lebanese people even before Ramadan.

Many pharmacies closed their doors because owners did not receive the minimum needs of medicine and baby milk from agents and warehouses.

Despite the complete closure, petrol stations remained busy as people fear more fuel shortages.

“The ships that produce power will stop on Saturday, and the factories will follow suit,” Abdo Saadeh, president of the Association of Private Generator Owners, said on Thursday.

“This means that the rationing of electric current in Lebanon may exceed 20 hours. In parallel, there is a shortage of diesel that feeds private generators, which means we are on the verge of a big problem.”

The fuel crisis affects vital sectors in Lebanon, as the secretary-general of the Lebanese Red Cross, Georges Kettaneh, announced that the Red Cross “has prepared a plan to fill its cars with fuel, and there is no crisis yet.”

The head of the Syndicate of Private Hospital Owners, Suleiman Haroun, said: “If Lebanon enters darkness as a result of not providing the funds allocated for the purchase of fuel, many patients in need of oxygen and dialysis machines will be affected.”

Haroun warned that private hospitals have generators, but it is impossible to ask hospitals to supply themselves with electricity 24 hours a day because “these generators are there to support the network and be a substitute for any malfunctions that occur.”


Israeli military confirms three rockets fired from Lebanon

A patrol unit of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is stationed in the southernmost Lebanese town of Naqura by the border with Israel. (AFP/File Photo)
A patrol unit of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is stationed in the southernmost Lebanese town of Naqura by the border with Israel. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 52 min 11 sec ago

Israeli military confirms three rockets fired from Lebanon

A patrol unit of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) is stationed in the southernmost Lebanese town of Naqura by the border with Israel. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Lebanese security forces also confirmed that at least three rockets were fired from south of country

JERUSALEM: Three rockets were launched from Lebanon toward northern Israel on Thursday but landed in the Mediterranean sea, causing no damage or casualties, the Israeli military said.

Lebanese security forces also confirmed that at least three rockets were fired from the south of Lebanon toward Israel.

More to follow...


Egypt receives 2.2 mln AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccine doses

Egypt receives 2.2 mln AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccine doses
Updated 13 May 2021

Egypt receives 2.2 mln AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccine doses

Egypt receives 2.2 mln AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccine doses
  • The country received its first COVAX delivery of 854,000 AstraZeneca doses at the start of April
  • Some 2.7 million people have registered online with the health ministry to receive a vaccine Some 2.7 million people have registered online with the health ministry to receive a vaccine

CAIRO: Egypt has received a batch of over 1.7 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses through the COVAX initiative and a separate shipment of 500,000 Sinopharm vaccine doses from China, the health ministry said on Thursday.
The country received its first COVAX delivery of 854,000 AstraZeneca doses at the start of April. It has also received several shipments of the Sinopharm vaccine, bringing the total number of vaccine doses delivered to 5 million, the health ministry said.
Egypt has an agreement for the supply of 20 million Sinopharm doses, and has been allocated 4.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through COVAX.
It is preparing to produce the Sinovac and Sputnik vaccines locally.
Egypt, with a population of just over 100 million, is trying to contain a third wave of COVID-19 infections and the government has put in place some restrictive measures until May 21, shortening opening hours and banning large gatherings.
Some 2.7 million people have registered online with the health ministry to receive a vaccine. Authorities opened a mass vaccination center in Cairo this month capable of vaccinating 10,000 people per day.
Egypt had officially confirmed 240,927 coronavirus cases including 14,091 deaths as of Wednesday.
Officials and experts say the real number of infections is far higher, but is not reflected in government figures because of low testing rates and the exclusion of private test results.


Macron holds talks with Mahmoud Abbas, will discuss Gaza situation with Netanyahu

French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris. (Reuters)
French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris. (Reuters)
Updated 13 May 2021

Macron holds talks with Mahmoud Abbas, will discuss Gaza situation with Netanyahu

French President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace in Paris. (Reuters)

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron is concerned by the escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians and called for a “definite reset” of negotiations between the two sides, the French presidency said on Thursday.

Palestinian militants fired more rockets into Israel’s commercial heartland on Thursday as Israel kept up a punishing bombing campaign in Gaza and massed tanks and troops on the enclave’s border. 

Other world leaders also called from calm, with US President Joe Biden saying Thursday he hoped fighting “will be closing down” sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also appealed in a video call for an end to the fighting.

“The main goal is to stop violent acts from both sides and ensure the safety of the civilian population,” the Kremlin said in a statement.


UAE allows Pfizer COVID-19 dose for emergency use in 12-15 year olds

UAE allows Pfizer COVID-19 dose for emergency use in 12-15 year olds
Updated 13 May 2021

UAE allows Pfizer COVID-19 dose for emergency use in 12-15 year olds

UAE allows Pfizer COVID-19 dose for emergency use in 12-15 year olds

The UAE has approved the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in children aged 12-15, the government said on Thursday, having already permitted its use for 16 years and above.
The UAE's health ministry approved its use, the government's Twitter account said. The US Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved the use of the vaccine in children as young as 12.