Women on 10 flights from Qatar invasively examined: Australia

Women were removed from a Sydney-bound Qatar Airways flight in Doha earlier this month and forced to undergo vaginal inspections. (AFP)
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Updated 30 October 2020

Women on 10 flights from Qatar invasively examined: Australia

  • Women were forced to undergo vaginal inspections
  • Australian FM called the searches “grossly disturbing” and “offensive”

SYDNEY: Female passengers on 10 planes flying out of Doha were forced to endure invasive physical examinations, Australia’s foreign minister said Wednesday, greatly expanding the number of women previously thought affected.
It was revealed on Sunday that women were removed from a Sydney-bound Qatar Airways flight in Doha earlier this month and forced to undergo vaginal inspections after a newborn baby was found abandoned in an airport bathroom.
Qatar apologized Wednesday but offered no immediate explanation of how officials decided to perform invasive vaginal examinations on the women.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne told a Senate hearing Wednesday that women on “10 aircraft in total” had been subject to the searches she has described as “grossly disturbing” and “offensive.”
“We became aware of that yesterday through advice from our post in Doha,” she said.
She said 18 Australian women on the October 2 flight to Sydney were affected, along with “other foreign nationals.” AFP understands one French woman on the flight was among them.
Payne did not detail the destinations of the other flights.
The incident has sparked a diplomatic row between Australia and Qatar, with Canberra lodging protests with the Middle East nation over the treatment of its citizens.
Officials said Australia was also working with other countries to jointly raise concerns with Doha but refused to name those countries, citing privacy concerns.
Payne admitted she had not spoken directly to her Qatari counterpart, saying she was “waiting to see the report” on the incident, which she expected to receive this week.
Doha’s Hamad International airport previously confirmed a broad outline of events, without providing details of the procedures, or the number of women and flights involved.
It also launched an appeal Sunday for the child’s mother to come forward, saying the baby remains unidentified but is “safe under the professional care of medical and social workers.”


Lebanon to ease virus curbs from Monday

Updated 15 min 41 sec ago

Lebanon to ease virus curbs from Monday

  • The health minister said Lebanon “will gradually reopen from Monday” to give citizens and businesses a respite ahead of Christmas

BEIRUT: Lebanon is from Monday to gradually ease restrictions imposed two weeks ago after a surge in coronavirus infections, in a bid to relieve its struggling economy in time for the festive season, officials said.
Acting health minister Hamad Hassan told reporters the country “will gradually reopen from Monday” to give citizens and businesses a respite ahead of Christmas and end of year holidays.
He said restaurants will reopen at 50 percent capacity, but bars and nightclubs will remain closed and weddings prohibited, while an overnight curfew will start from 11 p.m. instead of 5pm.
Schools would also reopen but with some classes still held online, Hassan said after a meeting of Lebanon’s coronavirus task force.
He warned that the “danger” of a rise in infections still exists and that the hoped-for results to stem the virus thanks to the curbs would not be known for several days.
Before the two-week restrictions went into force in mid-November, bed occupancy in hospital intensive care units was between 80 and 90 percent while “now it stands at 65-70 percent,” Hassan said.
Since February, the country has recorded more than 125,000 Covid-19 cases, including around 1,000 deaths.
Lebanon, with a population of around six million, had been recording some 11,000 coronavirus infections on average each week before mid-November, according to the health ministry.
A first country-wide lockdown imposed in March was effective in stemming the spread of the virus, before restrictions were gradually lifted as summer beckoned people outdoors.
But the number of cases surged following a monstrous blast at Beirut’s port on August 4 that killed more than 200 people, wounded at least 6,500 and overwhelmed hospitals.
The blast and the pandemic have exacerbated tensions in the Mediterranean country which has been grappling with its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.