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Morning Brief

Vaccination scandals, protests, electricity promises: Everything you need to know to start your Friday

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Friday, February 26, and this weekend

Vaccination scandals, protests, electricity promises: Everything you need to know to start your Friday

Activists protest outside the Military Tribunal earlier this month. (Credit: Marc Fayad)

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The agency monitoring Lebanon’s scandal-wracked COVID-19 vaccination plan is expected to issue a report by the end of the week. Meanwhile, as fury over the inoculation of 12 MPs continues, a new controversy has emerged over vaccines sent to Batroun Hospital. The caretaker health minister suspended the public hospital’s accreditation as a vaccine center for improperly distributing 48 vaccines. Batroun Hospital fired back on Thursday, blaming the Health Ministry for sending it inoculations set to “expire within three hours and sent with the knowledge of the Health Ministry.” It added that a list of recipients was not included, prompting the hospital to administer them to “whomever possible from Batroun’s residents without going through the ministry’s platform due to a lack of time.”

Activists have called for a protest in downtown Beirut today. The rally, held under the slogan “The reckoning will be huge,” is set to begin at 3 p.m. outside the Grand Serail — the seat of government — before moving to the central bank. Despite the COVID-19 lockdown, protests have been held outside the Military Tribunal and Justice Palace in recent weeks regarding the slow-moving probe into the Aug. 4 Beirut port explosion and the military court’s terrorism charges against civilians arrested in Tripoli protests last month. Yesterday, dozens rallied outside the Military Tribunal, which adjourned a hearing on a request to release the Tripoli defendants due to internet connectivity problems, our sister publication L’Orient-Le Jour reported.

Lebanon’s state-owned electricity company said that power coverage is expected to improve amid increased outages across the country. No timeline was given, however, with Électricité du Liban saying that tankers laden with fuel for power plants had been held up along the coast due to a payment snafu. Power outages across the country have increased in recent days, with EDL saying that its supply had been slashed by 400 megawatts as a result of the shortage of fuel. It laid the blame at the feet of Lebanon’s dire economic situation and banking crisis, which have made it difficult for the company to “maintain a stable supply of electricity.”

The caretaker energy minister said that Iraq has agreed to be paid in local dollars in exchange for providing Lebanon with 500,000 tons of fuel oil. Raymond Ghajar told our sister publication Le Commerce du Levant yesterday that these supplies would cover a quarter of EDL's fuel needs. The local dollar amount has yet to be agreed, Ghajar said, adding that it would be placed in an escrow account at the central bank to be used by Iraqi authorities to buy goods and services in Lebanon exclusively. Iraqi oil, which fails to meet Lebanon’s specifications, will either have to be refined or swapped with a fuel that matches the country’s requirements.

The central bank is sticking with its deadline for banks to raise their capital by the end of the month. Banque du Liban said that banks must comply with circulars mandating the capital increase and submit required documentation by Feb. 28. Reuters reported earlier in the month that less than half of Lebanon’s top tier banks would be able to adhere to the deadline. In a Dec. 1 interview, Riad Salameh warned that banks unable to meet the requirements would have to leave the market. However, BDL said on Feb. 11 that any discussion of banks going out of business at the end of the month was “devoid of any truth.”

The Maronite Church will stage a rally Saturday in support of the patriarch’s call for an international conference to tackle Lebanon’s crises. The Lebanese Forces, Kataeb, the Free Patriotic Movement and the Progressive Socialist Party earlier this week backed Bechara al-Rai’s initiative for the summit. Meanwhile, Sami Gemayel called on supporters of his Kataeb Party to join the rally at the seat of the Maronite Church in Bkirki. Rai on Feb. 7 called for a summit under UN auspices to tackle the “paralysis of the Lebanese system” and “illegal weapons.” In recent months, the cleric has called for Lebanon’s neutrality, interpreted by many as criticism of Hezbollah’s foreign military activities, although Rai insists he has not been singling out any party.


Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.The agency monitoring Lebanon’s scandal-wracked COVID-19 vaccination plan is expected to issue a report by the end of the week. Meanwhile, as fury over the inoculation of 12 MPs continues, a new controversy has emerged over vaccines sent to Batroun Hospital. The caretaker health minister suspended the public hospital’s...