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Strict lockdown begins, vaccine progress, a bad year for human rights: Everything you need to know to start your Thursday

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Thursday, January 14, 2021

Strict lockdown begins, vaccine progress, a bad year for human rights: Everything you need to know to start your Thursday

People queue in their cars in Zouk Mosbeh, north of Beirut, to take the COVID-19 PCR test on Tuesday before the country goes on total lockdown. (Credit: Joseph Eid/AFP)

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Lebanon goes into a total lockdown today in a bid to contain an outbreak that has killed 180 people in a week. The outbreak, which spiraled out of control over the holiday break when authorities loosened restrictions, has seen Lebanon set records in daily infections and take the lead in the Arab world. Lebanon is currently recording 633 cases per million people, eclipsing second-place UAE, which stands at 263, according to the American University of Beirut’s Global Health Institute. The strict new measures, which bar vehicular traffic and in-person grocery shopping, have raised doubts over supermarkets’ capacity to abruptly switch to a delivery-only model.

The country registered a record 35 COVID-19-related deaths yesterday, bringing the total number of deaths to 1,740. Since the beginning of the outbreak in late February of last year, 231,936 people have been infected, with the biggest surge taking place over the past two weeks. With hospitals near full capacity, the Health Ministry said that 1,651 patients were currently in hospitals battling the virus, with 627 in ICU and 176 on mechanical ventilation. The caretaker health minister was among those hospitalized with COVID-19, with St. Georges Hospital in Hadath, outside Beirut, announcing last night that Hamad Hassan had been admitted to the facility.

Parliament’s health committee gave the green light to a bill authorizing the use of COVID-19 vaccines. The bill will now be fast-tracked through the legislative pipeline and be put up to a vote in front of the full Parliament on Friday. The legislation protects pharma giant Pfizer, now in negotiations with the government, from legal action as a result of any problems with the vaccine. Pfizer, among other pharmaceutical companies producing coronavirus vaccines, has demanded that governments across the globe waive liability in case of any side effects before selling its product. Lebanon is looking to secure “at least 12 million shots” from different producers, committee chair Assem Araji said following the meeting, adding that the law is applicable across the board.

Lebanon witnessed the most drastic deterioration of rights in decades over the past year, Human Rights Watch said. The devastating financial collapse that has gripped Lebanon, coupled with the coronavirus pandemic, “has caused the poverty rate to double in the past year,” HRW added. The group laid the blame at the feet of the “Lebanese authorities’ corruption and failure to address the massive political and economic crises.” The report also noted deterioration on the fronts of free speech and assembly, women’s rights and the situation of low-income families, people with disabilities, migrants, refugees and LGBTQ people.


Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.Lebanon goes into a total lockdown today in a bid to contain an outbreak that has killed 180 people in a week. The outbreak, which spiraled out of control over the holiday break when authorities loosened restrictions, has seen Lebanon set records in daily infections and take the lead in the Arab world. Lebanon is currently recording...