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As the scandal over the vaccination of MPs grows, Lebanon’s caretaker health minister claimed the inoculations were not a violation of the COVID-19 vaccination plan. Hamad Hassan said yesterday that his ministry was not under “international guardianship,” an implicit riposte to World Bank official Saroj Kumar Jha. The World Bank’s point-person for the Middle East said that the vaccination of 12 MPs was a breach that jeopardized his institution’s funding for the inoculation campaign. The deputy speaker of Parliament, for his part, claimed incorrectly that the shots given to the politicians and their staff on Tuesday were in line with the national plan. Elie Ferzli also mocked Jha and called him a “liar” and threatened his deportation. Meanwhile, a member of Lebanon’s national vaccination committee announced her resignation. Amid the ballooning controversy, 62 more COVID-19 deaths were registered yesterday.
The international agency monitoring Lebanon’s vaccination program said it was not notified beforehand of the inoculations given to the president and close associates. A spokesperson for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies told L’Orient Today yesterday that since it was left in the dark, it was unable to send monitors to the presidential palace. Michel Aoun’s press office said on Tuesday that the president, his wife Nadia and 10 members of his staff had been inoculated, but did not explain whether the staffers fell under the guidelines for priority vaccinations.
Protesters gathered again outside the Military Tribunal in Beirut to denounce the court’s prosecution of Tripoli demonstrators on terrorism charges. Dozens of demonstrators, held back from the court by barbed wire and security forces, raised banners yesterday criticizing Lebanon’s judiciary and ruling class, our sister publication L’Orient-Le Jour reported. Ayman Raad, one of the attorneys for the 35 defendants, accused the Military Tribunal’s prosecution of being “instrumentalized for political purposes.” The lawyer added that the court is scheduled to rule today on a request for the release of the 18 defendants — including one minor — who are in custody. More protests, meanwhile, are planned today outside the court.
The National Center for Marine Sciences will submit a report today on the impact of the mysterious oil spill that hit Lebanon’s southern shores. The center’s director said the report, which includes data on the polluted area, will be handed to the cabinet. Milad Fakhri also said he will submit a response plan for disposing of the tar and other polluting material on the coast. Large parts of the shoreline in the southern Sur district were impacted by the spill, which ravaged the coastline of occupied Palestine last week amid a media blackout by Israeli authorities. Inaya Ezzeddine, an MP representing Sur, called for quick action from authorities ahead of the turtle breeding season, saying that sandy beaches should be cleaned for the endangered species to lay their eggs. Meanwhile, President Michel Aoun on Wednesday tasked the outgoing foreign minister to follow up on the issue with the UN.
The Finance Ministry moved Wednesday to provide funds for the country’s cash-strapped municipalities. Ghazi Wazni, the caretaker finance minister, instructed the Independent Municipal Fund to pay the full balance of revenues owed to municipalities from 2018, worth LL300 billion, a ministry spokesperson told L’Orient Today. The funds are to be transferred today to Banque du Liban before being deposited in the bank accounts of municipalities, the spokesperson explained. The main source of income for local governments, the Independent Municipal Fund has come under past criticism for its delayed payouts to municipalities.
Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.As the scandal over the vaccination of MPs grows, Lebanon’s caretaker health minister claimed the inoculations were not a violation of the COVID-19 vaccination plan. Hamad Hassan said yesterday that his ministry was not under “international guardianship,” an implicit riposte to World Bank official Saroj Kumar Jha. The World...