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Morning brief

Everything you need to know to start your Monday

Everything you need to know to start your Monday

President Michel Aoun meets with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri Saturday at the Presidential Palace in Baabda. (Credit: Dalati Nohra)

BEIRUT — Here’s what happened over the weekend and what to expect today, Monday, Oct. 26, and this week.

Saad Hariri met with Michel Aoun twice over the weekend after consulting with MPs Friday on the formation of a new government. Hariri was chosen Thursday to form what would be his fourth government, which he has promised would be made up of specialists and seek to implement reforms demanded by the international community in exchange for aid. Lebanese leaders, having run out the clock, are facing a string of crises as the central bank’s foreign currency reserves run low. Of course, those crises are in part due to actions taken by Hariri and his previous governments.

Six private hospitals have threatened to stop receiving non-emergency patients this week unless a decision requiring them to pay cash for medical supplies is reversed. The hospitals delivered their ultimatum on Friday in an attempt to pressure the central bank to reconsider its requirement that importers provide cash lira to obtain dollars at the official exchange rate, which had in turn led importers to impose the same restrictions on its customers, including hospitals. At the same time, another central bank policy has made cash lira more difficult to access.

Waste management company Ramco threatened to stop collecting garbage in Beirut, Metn and Kesrouan this week if the government does not begin paying in dollars, as per its contract. Walid Bou Saad, the company’s director, told L’Orient Today that it was struggling to operate due to its inability to repay bank loans in US dollars. Another company, City Blu, which handles waste for parts of Beirut, the Chouf, Baabda and Aley, has already suspended operations due to mounting debts at banks, our sister publication L’Orient-Le Jour reports. Ramco also ran into financial issues earlier this year when it stopped paying its foreign staff in dollars. When workers protested, the company called in riot police.

A man was killed on Sunday in one of dozens of forest fires that erupted across the country amid high temperatures and swift winds. He was killed in the Jezzine town of Mjaydel, where firefighters struggled to contain a blaze as it approached buildings. Large fires also burned in the Jbeil village of Bentael, Saida, Sur and Akkar. Meanwhile, the capability of the Civil Defense firefighters to continue tackling fires is in jeopardy as they are set to lose access to fuel. The organization’s head, Raymond Khattar, told L’Orient Today that he asked units to fill up on fuel from the Lebanese Army by the end of the month as funds provided through the Higher Relief Committee run out.

The Interior Ministry once again reduced the number of towns and villages being put under local lockdown to control the spread of COVID-19. As of today, 63 municipalities will be on total lockdown, down from 79 last week. A late-night curfew remains in place and all bars and nightclubs should remain closed. However, many bars across the country were welcoming customers in defiance of the rule, with some even promoting happy hours and special events via social media. A recent surge in coronavirus cases has shown no sign of letting up, with 86 percent of ICU beds occupied and about 11 percent of tests coming back positive over the last two weeks, according to the World Health Organization.

The army is set to begin distributing LL100 billion to people affected by the Aug. 4 port explosion today, starting with areas closest to the blast site. However, army officials admitted that the initial funds would cover less than a quarter of the LL427.6 billion in damage and reach only a sixth of affected homes. Separately, the Order of Engineers and Architects released a survey showing that of 2,509 buildings in the area surrounding Beirut port, 323, including 51 heritage buildings, are at risk of full or partial collapse.

Lebanese and Israeli delegations are set to meet on Wednesday for a second round of talks on demarcating the Lebanon-Palestine maritime border. The opening session of negotiations, held at the UNIFIL headquarters in Naqoura on Oct. 14, ended after less than an hour. Lebanese officials believe that reaching an agreement with Israel, with which Lebanon is officially at war, will ease exploration for and, they hope, exploitation of hydrocarbons. Initial offshore exploration earlier this year failed to find a reservoir of commercially viable resources. Representatives of Palestine will not be invited to the negotiations.

On Thursday, Lebanon marks the birthday of the Prophet Mohammad with a public holiday. Typically, the Muslim religious holiday is celebrated with parades, dinners and special mosque services. However, festivities this year will be more muted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


BEIRUT — Here’s what happened over the weekend and what to expect today, Monday, Oct. 26, and this week.

Saad Hariri met with Michel Aoun twice over the weekend after consulting with MPs Friday on the formation of a new government. Hariri was chosen Thursday to form what would be his fourth government, which he has promised would be made up of specialists and seek to...