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Morning Brief

Electricity anger, shops reopening, patriarch’s rally: Everything you need to know to start your Monday

Here’s what happened over the weekend and what to expect today, Monday, March 1, and this week

Electricity anger, shops reopening, patriarch’s rally: Everything you need to know to start your Monday

Thousands attended a rally on Saturday at which the Maronite patriarch called for an international conference on Lebanon and "the liberation of the state." (Credit: João Sousa/L'Orient Today)

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A number of commercial sectors will reopen Monday as Lebanon moves forward with its gradual reopening from a COVID-19 lockdown. Wholesalers of food, drink and tobacco products as well as an assortment of retailers, from shoe stores to sporting good businesses, are now permitted to reopen their doors. Firass Abiad, the director of Rafik Hariri University Hospital, warned yesterday that even though shops and malls are reopening, the COVID-19 situation is not getting better. Residents will still need permits from the Impact travel app to go to malls, supermarkets, banks and ski resorts, but travel related to dozens of other businesses has been exempted. The 24-hour curfew in place since January has been replaced with a curfew between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. Meanwhile, 82 more COVID-19 deaths were registered over the weekend. Another batch of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Lebanon on Saturday as the international agency monitoring Lebanon’s scandal-hit vaccination program is preparing to publicize a report that tackles the inoculation of MPs last week.

Frustrations are mounting over increased power blackouts in the country, after the state electricity company promised late last week that the situation would improve. Protesters in Beirut blocked the Ring road at night over the weekend, while the Salim Salam and Corniche al-Mazraa thoroughfares were obstructed yesterday in anger over power cuts. Électricité du Liban announced Thursday that electricity coverage would be boosted once two fuel ships unload their cargo following a payment snafu, but did not offer a concrete timeline. Meanwhile, the Finance Ministry said Friday it had greenlit funds for EDL to receive the fuel. Amid the deteriorating economic situation, concerns have risen that Lebanon’s electricity is facing a total collapse.

Activists have called for a protest today outside the Military Tribunal over the court’s prosecution of civilian defendants on terror charges. Judge Marcel Bassil on Friday ruled in favor of the release of three defendants — among the 35 charged on accusations of rioting in January protests in Tripoli — and referred his decision to the court’s prosecutor. An expected ruling on the request to release 18 detainees, including a minor, was delayed last week due to internet problems. The secretive court’s unusually heavy-handed prosecution, which carries a maximum penalty of death, has raised concerns over the authorities’ handling of alleged crimes committed by protesters.

At a rally attended by thousands on Saturday, the Maronite patriarch called for an international conference on Lebanon and the “liberation of the state.” Bechara al-Rai told the crowd in Bkirki, including supporters of the Lebanese Forces and Kataeb parties, not to be “silent about illegal weapons,” an implicit reference to Hezbollah’s weapons. While the Maronite spiritual leader in the past has said he is not singling out any specific party, participants at the rally interrupted his speech with chants of “terrorist Hezbollah” and “Iran out,” according to our sister publication L’Orient-Le Jour. On Sunday, a Hezbollah MP responded that his party disagrees with the patriarch’s call for a conference under the auspices of the UN, cautioning that “internationalization is a danger to Lebanon.”

Volunteers flocked to the Tyre Coast Nature Reserve to help clear away tar from an oil spill that has polluted beaches in southern Lebanon. The head of the National Council for Scientific Research told AFP on Saturday that the reserve for endangered turtles has been ravaged by two tons of tar. Yesterday, the official said that his organization had completed its report on the oil spill and would submit it to the cabinet mid-week. Wide swaths of the southern shoreline in the Sur district were hit by the spill, which impacted occupied Palestine earlier in February amid a media gag by Israeli authorities.

Today, the government reaches the ignominious milestone of being in caretaker status longer than it was active. Hassan Diab’s government resigned in August, 202 days after it was formed amid bold and ultimately unfulfilled promises. Since then — 203 days and counting as of today — a premier-designate has come and gone, while the country’s politicians continue to squabble over the size and distribution of ministerial portfolios for a new government.


Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.A number of commercial sectors will reopen Monday as Lebanon moves forward with its gradual reopening from a COVID-19 lockdown. Wholesalers of food, drink and tobacco products as well as an assortment of retailers, from shoe stores to sporting good businesses, are now permitted to reopen their doors. Firass Abiad, the director of...