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Morning brief

Everything you need to know to start your Friday

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Friday, November 20, and this weekend

Everything you need to know to start your Friday

Police check cars at a checkpoint put in place to enforce traffic restrictions during the countrywide coronavirus lockdown. (AFP/Anwar Amro)

Dozens of new beds for COVID-19 patients are to be added to private and public hospitals, caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan announced. Private hospitals have agreed to provide 80 new coronavirus beds in intensive care units, and are expected to add more in the coming weeks, after they signed a new deal with the Health Ministry that allocates World Bank funding for COVID-19 treatments. Governmental hospitals will add 114 new ICU beds in the next month, bringing the total in the public sector to 256. As of Wednesday evening, 81.2 percent of the country’s 404 ICU beds were occupied, according to the World Health Organization.

The Free Patriotic Movement’s parliamentary bloc supports a proposal from the Lebanese Forces that would temporarily suspend certain provisions of Lebanon’s banking secrecy law to allow a forensic audit of the central bank to proceed, MP Farid Boustany said. Conducting a forensic audit of BDL to reveal financial crimes or malpractice has proved controversial, as prominent politicians and legal groups have clashed over the legality of applying banking secrecy to accounts at the central bank. Boustany’s statement came after his economic committee meeting was adjourned; no major developments emerged from the other two committees that met.

Striking employees at Saida’s waste sorting plant are standing firm in their demands for better pay. As a result of the deadlock, garbage piled up in the streets of the city as well as in the Palestinian refugee camps of Ain al-Hilweh and Mieh w Mieh. Local residents have been protesting by dropping trash at the entrance to the municipality building. Mayor Mohammad al-Saudi discussed raising employees’ salaries in line with an exchange rate of LL3,900 per dollar with the finance minister and asked the local waste collection company to clear the streets. Still, workers have refused to let garbage trucks enter the plant until their calls are heeded.

Caretaker Foreign Minister Charbel Wehbi suggested that Lebanon had not signed an international media freedom agreement due to a clause supporting the LGBTI community. In a Twitter exchange with a journalist from Sky News Arabia, the outgoing minister said that the country had not signed because of a phrase in the pledge that “contradicts [Lebanese] law” and “has nothing to do with media freedoms” but did not give specifics. After dozens of lawyers, journalists, activists and others challenged his statements, Wehbi appeared to deactivate his Twitter account.

Lebanon celebrates its 77th anniversary of independence this weekend, commemorating the end of French rule on Nov. 22, 1943. Due to the coronavirus lockdown, state festivities have been scaled back this year, reduced to small ceremonies at the grave sites of key independence figures. Anti-government protesters are also planning a march through central Beirut on Saturday, but it is unlikely to attract the same crowds as boisterous alternative independence day celebrations, part of the Oct. 17 uprising, did last year.


Dozens of new beds for COVID-19 patients are to be added to private and public hospitals, caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan announced. Private hospitals have agreed to provide 80 new coronavirus beds in intensive care units, and are expected to add more in the coming weeks, after they signed a new deal with the Health Ministry that allocates World Bank funding for COVID-19...