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The Health Ministry this weekend launched a vaccination campaign to combat the spread of cholera in northern Lebanon “to ensure an immune coverage exceeding 70 percent for the people in the region,” caretaker Health Minister Firass Abiad said. "This campaign will continue in the regions of Akkar, North [Lebanon] and Bekaa," Abiad said, adding that 4,000 prison inmates and officials had been vaccinated the day before. Lebanon received a donation of over 13,000 vaccines last week, which Abiad said were mainly intended for “front-line workers and health facilities, doctors, nurses, rescue workers and others.” Cholera has infected 436 people and killed 18 since the first case in almost 30 years emerged in northern Lebanon at the start of October. Yesterday was the fourth consecutive day without any new cholera deaths recorded.
Over two years after the Aug. 4, 2020 Beirut port blast, Civil Defense member Abdul Rahman Bishnati died from injuries sustained during the explosion, spokesperson for a group of blast victims’ relatives Ibrahim Hoteit said during the 27th monthly vigil outside the port to commemorate the tragedy. Hoteit did not specify exactly when Bishnati passed away. The blast killed over 200 people and injured more than 6,500 others. While the port blast investigation stalls, victims’ families remain divided over the role of lead investigator Judge Tarek Bitar. The probe is suspended pending rulings on complaints against Bitar filed by suspects he named in the investigation: MPs Ghazi Zeaiter and Ali Hassan Khalil and former Public Works Minister Youssef Fenianos. The complainants filed lawsuits not only against Bitar but also against the judges assigned to rule on the original complaints, resulting in a legal holdup pending judicial assignments restoring quorum to the plenary assembly of the Court of Cassation — reportedly stalled by caretaker Finance Minister Youssef Khalil. Amid the judicial deadlock, the Higher Judicial Council approved a request from caretaker Justice Minister Henri Khoury to assign an alternate judge to rule on detainees held in connection to the investigation, around 15 of whom have been in custody for over two years. While detainees’ relatives welcomed the assignment, victims’ families and legal experts criticized it as politically motivated.
Caretaker Social Affairs Minister Hector Hajjar on Saturday advised the international community “to stay neutral,” as around 350 Syrian refugees were repatriated in the second series of return trips as part of Lebanon’s controversial mass return plan. As of Saturday, the return plan had repatriated over 1,000 Syrian refugees despite warnings from international organizations that consider Syria unsafe for return. There will be "a third, fourth and fifth return convoy," Hajjar added, questioning the “harm” involved in organizing “voluntary return trips.” Last month, human rights watchdog Amnesty International claimed that “in enthusiastically facilitating these returns, the Lebanese authorities are knowingly putting Syrian refugees at risk of suffering from heinous abuse.”
Lebanon’s tourism sector can expect a holiday season boon, president of the Association of Travel & Tourist Agents in Lebanon Jean Abboud said Thursday. He added that flights to Lebanon between Dec. 20 and the end of the year are almost fully booked. Abboud also noted that “additional flights will be organized for Lebanon” once the reservation rate hits “100 percent.” The tourism expert compared the number of expected visitors to the number of travelers recorded this summer, while predicting “a significant increase in Arab and foreign tourists.”
The theft of electrical cables at the Dbayeh water pumping station caused severe water shortages in the capital and the Metn district, the Beirut and Mount Lebanon Water Establishment (EBML) announced Saturday. The EMBL claimed in a statement that the theft was part of “an [ongoing] series” alternately affecting different stations. The pilfering of public infrastructure equipment increased in the wake of Lebanon’s economic crisis with black marketeers equally targeting electricity, telecoms and water stations. Water shortages linked to issues with electricity supply have also been a common feature of crisis-hit Lebanon. Last Wednesday, South Lebanon entered an electricity-linked public water drought.
In case you missed it, here's our must-read story from yesterday: “Lebanon’s civil servants are leaving in droves. They won't be replaced soon”
Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz
CORRECTION: An earlier version of the Morning Brief stated yesterday was the third consecutive day with no new cholera deaths recorded; it was in fact the fourth consecutive day.