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Jean Obeid has died of complications from COVID-19. The Tripoli MP had served in several ministerial roles, including as foreign minister in Rafik Hariri’s fifth government in 2003-04. After over a decade out of office, Obeid made a comeback on former Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s list in the 2018 elections. With his death, 10 of Parliament’s 128 seats are now empty; constitutionally mandated by-elections for eight of the seats were not held within the two-month deadline, while it remains to be seen whether a vote will occur to fill the seats of Obeid and Michel Murr, who died the weekend before last. Obeid was 82 years old.
Today marks the beginning of a phased lifting of the strict countrywide lockdown that has been in place since Jan. 14. In the first phase, citizens will still be required to apply for a permit if they need to leave the house on essential business, but allowable reasons will now be expanded to include trips to the grocery store. Previously, supermarkets had been permitted to operate on a delivery-only basis, which presented logistical issues due to the lack of adequate delivery capacity. Factories producing medical supplies, agricultural equipment and food products will also be allowed to operate during this phase, and banks may receive customers up to 20 percent capacity. On Sunday, automatic granting of permit requests was temporarily halted, with only emergency requests being considered. The Impact platform, which runs the permit system, said via Twitter that the suspension was intended “to avoid fraudulent scenarios” after a suspiciously high number of permits were requested the previous weekend.
Meanwhile, business groups and daily workers protested the extension of the lockdown for other sectors. Restaurant workers protested in Tripoli Sunday, while clothing and shoe retailers in Jbeil issued a statement condemning the lockdown extension, as did business owners in Akkar, who warned that the continued closure would exacerbate unemployment and proposed that the government give businesses compensation with which to pay their workers. In Beirut, protesters briefly blocked the Cola intersection and the Ring bridge with burning tires, while shopkeepers in Saida announced plans for a sit-in Monday.
Calls mounted for an investigation into the murder of Lokman Slim, while friends and family planned memorial events for the researcher and activist. On Saturday, a few dozen people, including civil society activists and journalists, gathered in Samir Kassir Square in downtown Beirut to protest the Hezbollah critic’s killing. A similar vigil is planned at 3 p.m. Tuesday in the same location, while a memorial event to celebrate his life is set to be held Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Umam Documentation and Research center, which Slim had founded with his wife in the south Beirut suburb of Haret Hreik. Supporters have launched a petition calling for an international investigation into the killing.
The COVID-19 death of a doctor, Nabil Kharrat, along with reports that his family was charged excessively by a hospital, generated outrage over the weekend and an investigation by the National Social Security Fund. NSSF head Mohammad Karaki told L’Orient Today that the probe is looking into two hospitals, one of which allegedly refused to admit Kharrat, while the other charged LL30 million as a deposit for his treatment. Karaki said the treatment should have been fully covered — 90 percent by NSSF and the remaining 10 percent by his private insurance — meaning that the money eventually would have been returned to Kharrat’s family, but he said the fund is looking into whether it was improper for the hospital to charge such a high deposit. Meanwhile, Order of Physicians head Charaf Abou Charaf said the group “is currently studying a proposal concerning the coverage of hospital costs for active and retired doctors who have contracted the coronavirus, in particular after certain private hospitals have asked them for significant financial compensation.”
Banque du Liban Gov. Riad Salameh has a hearing scheduled before Judge Nicolas Mansour Monday in relation to charges of dereliction of duty and breach of trust. The case is related to allegations that millions of dollars provided by the central bank last year to fund imports were misused. A judicial source told L’Orient Today that Salameh’s attorney can appear on his behalf for the hearing, so the governor would likely not appear in person.
Update: The Morning Brief has been updated with the news of Jean Obeid’s death, which was reported as the brief went to publication.
Correction: The original version of the Morning Brief said the gathering in Samir Kassir Square to protest the murder of Lokman Slim happened on Sunday, not Saturday. Apologies.
Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.Jean Obeid has died of complications from COVID-19. The Tripoli MP had served in several ministerial roles, including as foreign minister in Rafik Hariri’s fifth government in 2003-04. After over a decade out of office, Obeid made a comeback on former Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s list in the 2018 elections. With his death, 10 of...