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MORNING BRIEF

General Mobilization extended, ‘health catastrophe’ expectations, World Bank energy project progressing: Everything you need to know to start your Thursday

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Thursday, Dec. 23, and the upcoming holiday weekend

General Mobilization extended, ‘health catastrophe’ expectations, World Bank energy project progressing: Everything you need to know to start your Thursday

The secretary-general of the Higher Defense Council, Gen. Mahmoud al-Asmar, at the Presidential Palace in Baabda on Wednesday. (Credit: Dalati and Nohra)

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The Higher Defense Council extended the general mobilization from December 31 to March 31. The council’s decision allows the government to continue taking preventive steps to combat the pandemic as the number of COVID-19 cases rises daily. Lebanon registered 1,922 new COVID-19 cases and 15 deaths yesterday, bringing the death toll to 8,980. The Higher Defense Council also resolved to keep in place existing measures to limit the spread of the virus. These include instituting a curfew for the unvaccinated during the holiday season; making full vaccination mandatory for all public sector employees, as well as employees in the education, health, and tourism sectors, as of Jan. 10; and extending the winter vacation for school and university students from Dec. 16 to Jan. 10, to allow schools more time to vaccinate students. The council also decided to heighten security measures amid an increase in murder and theft incidents in Lebanon. As the value of the lira continued to tumble, the Lebanese army recorded 632 arrests in November for different crimes and misdemeanors, such as theft, smuggling, possession of weapons and contraband, and the unlicensed driving of automobiles and motorbikes.

Syndicate of Private Hospital Owners issued a warning yesterday about an impending “health catastrophe.” The syndicate’s statement warned that the rapid increase in COVID-19 infections, along with limited hospital capacity, will soon result in a health crisis. They explained that there is a huge shortage of supplies “necessary for medical laboratories” and of the “oxygen, medicine and medical equipment” required to treat COVID-19 patients. Last year’s holiday season triggered a COVID-19 outbreak that lasted until the end of April. The latest report published Wednesday by the Health Ministry states that 314 patients are currently in intensive care. Meanwhile, Sharaf Abu Sharaf, President of the Order of Physicians of Lebanon, on Wednesday urged Lebanese residents on Wednesday to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and a booster shot “60 percent of the Lebanese have not yet received the vaccine, which is very worrying,” he said.

Energy Minister Walid Fayad says a World Bank-funded project aimed at increasing Lebanon’s ability to generate power is “progressing.” During a meeting yesterday, Energy Minister Walid Fayad told Prime Minister Najib Mikati that World Bank financing for a project to boost Lebanon's electricity-generating capacity is progressing and “will be completed in the first months of the new year.” The World Bank’s financing conditions, according to Fayad, are mostly reform conditions related to the administrative and financial continuity of EDL, including a long-term plan for the sector, provided that it is implemented within the first months of 2022. Earlier this month, Pierre Duquesne, the French diplomat in charge of coordinating international aid to Lebanon, reassured Lebanon that “France will support the Lebanese file with the World Bank regarding the import of Egyptian gas and Jordanian electricity.”

Members of Parliament affiliated with the Free Patriotic Movement have written to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, urging him to call a session to discuss the cabinet, which has not met since October 12. In a letter signed by ten MPs, including FPM leader Gebran Bassil, Parliamentarians underlined the need for a “question-and-answer session,” calling on the administration to work to “stop the collapse and address the concerns” that face Lebanon. This letter came a day after the FPM’s efforts to appeal changes to the election law failed, with the Constitutional Council unable to reach a decision on the challenge, leaving the law in force as it was passed by Parliament. The Constitutional Council's non-decision came as several local media outlets reported that a package deal was in the works to rouse Prime Minister Najib Mikati's cabinet from its months-long artificial coma, induced by disagreements among ministers over the future of Judge Bitar’s leadership of the port blast investigation.

The morning brief will go on hiatus as we at L’Orient Today reduce operations and take a small holiday break — news permitting. We will be back with everything you need to know to start your post-Christmas Monday.

Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.The Higher Defense Council extended the general mobilization from December 31 to March 31. The council’s decision allows the government to continue taking preventive steps to combat the pandemic as the number of COVID-19 cases rises daily. Lebanon registered 1,922 new COVID-19 cases and 15 deaths yesterday, bringing the death toll to...