Opinion

Pandemic, economic collapse, explosions... who wants to be Lebanese in 2020?

A wounded man is helped by a firefighter near the scene of an explosion in Beirut on August 4, 2020. (AFP / ANWAR AMRO)
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Updated 05 August 2020

Pandemic, economic collapse, explosions... who wants to be Lebanese in 2020?

  • Latest disaster caps a year of challenges for beleaguered country, and there are still five months to get through

LONDON: Until now, all Lebanon had to contend with this year had been a devastating pandemic, a crippling economic collapse and a government accused of corruption and incompetence.

Now this. And it’s only August.

“This has been the worst year for Lebanon by far,” Karim Nahouli, from Beirut’s Ras Al-Nabaa district, told Arab News. 

“We’ve had 15 years of civil war, then another war in 2006 with Israel, and assassinations throughout, but this is definitely Lebanon’s year from hell.”

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Lebanese have been living through an unprecedented financial and economic crisis in which the pound has lost more than 80 percent of its value in eight months, pushing up the price of imported goods by up to five times.

“The people are tired. We are all exhausted and drained from the never-ending bad news that continues to appear on our phones and social media,” said Samer Asmar, a Lebanese expatriate medical researcher in Arizona. 

“I haven’t been able to focus fully on anything since the protests began, and it’s been continuously downhill from there.”

Protesters denouncing the country’s political regime took to the streets on Oct. 17 last year, and they were there again on Tuesday demonstrating against constant power cuts. 

Electricity issues have plagued the country for years, with recent power cuts going on for up to 20 hours a day.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic this year accelerated the country’s economic collapse as scores of shops, restaurants and malls closed amid the lockdown.

“Lebanon is fighting a war on three levels: On the health level, on the political level, and now a war for their lives, wellbeing, and safety,” Nahouli said.


Lebanese spy chief tests positive for virus in US

Updated 21 October 2020

Lebanese spy chief tests positive for virus in US

  • Lebanon’s General Directorate of Public Security said that Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim is in ‘good health,’ but will postpone his return to Beirut following the PCR test

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s security chief has been forced to delay his return from an official visit to the US after testing positive for coronavirus following a series of White House meetings.

Maj. Gen. Abbas Ibrahim, director-general of the Lebanese Public Security, met with US officials, including David Hale, the undersecretary of state for political affairs; CIA director Gina Haspel; and national security adviser Robert O’Brien during his recent visit to Washington.

Hale, as well as several other employees from the State Department and other executive branch divisions, are now self-isolating for 14 days, US officials said.

Lebanon’s General Directorate of Public Security said that Ibrahim is in “good health,” but will postpone his return to Beirut following the PCR test.

The Lebanese intelligence chief also held talks with senior US security officials in Washington. He was scheduled to hold meetings in Paris before his return to Beirut.

In Lebanon, the number of coronavirus infections during October rose to more than 24,000, climbing past the September total of 22,000.

Since the outbreak began in February, more than 63,000 cases have been reported in the country, with 525 fatalities.

Firas Abyad, director of the Rafic Hariri University Hospital, said: “The situation is unacceptable. If we continue on this path, we will soon reach a point where the number of critical coronavirus cases outweighs the number of available intensive care beds. This will coincide with winter, when the demand for intensive care beds increases for pneumonia cases, for example.”

Abyad told Arab News: “One of the most difficult cases that doctors can face is the death of a mother after giving birth, due to the repercussions of her infection with the coronavirus, and this happened a few days ago in Tripoli.”

Abyad pointed to a “state of denial” among those infected with the virus, saying some “consider it as just a regular flu, and do not think about the consequences of the disease.”

He added: “We have 215 cases that need intensive care in Lebanon. We are not fully occupied yet, but we may be shortly.”

Almost 80 Lebanese towns have been placed in lockdown by the Ministry of Interior after recording high rates of infection.

The one-week lockdown decree issued on Tuesday included the southern Beirut neighborhoods of Ghobeiry, Haret Hreik, Burj Al-Brajneh, Tahwitet Al-Ghadeer and Al-Laylaki.

According to the Mount Lebanon Governorate, some suburbs “failed to abide by individual and collective preventive measures to limit the spread of active infection chains.”

The lockdown includes a ban on “social events, parties and gatherings of all kinds.”

Cafes, gaming lounges, amusement parks, sports clubs and public parks will also be closed under the restrictions.