Aoun works to reverse Saudi ban on produce, COVID-19 cases drop, locusts swarm: Everything you need to know to start your Tuesday

89 swarm of locusts fly in the northeastern town of Arsal. (Credit: AFP)

Michel Aoun conscripted caretaker ministers to put mitigation measures in place to curb drug trafficking as he asked Saudi Arabia to reconsider its ban on Lebanese produce imports. The president’s actions emerged from a meeting with Lebanon’s top political leaders aimed at mending relations with the kingdom after a drug trafficking incident on Friday prompted the ban. Aoun assigned the caretaker interior minister to coordinate with Saudi authorities on the case at hand — where more than 5 million Captagon pills found their way into a pomegranate shipment to the kingdom. Meanwhile, the caretaker finance, economy, industry and trade ministers have been tasked with amending the procedures for foreign trade goods passing through Lebanon, as details about the case continue to come to light. According to Al Jadeed, the Captagon shipment was executed through a fictitious company that had brought the pills from Syria, and the shipment’s certificate of origin was reportedly forged to look Lebanese.

Lebanon on Sunday registered just 642 new cases of COVID-19 — the lowest single-day number of newly recorded cases since September. Whether this low number is indicative of a trend remains to be seen, however, as it coincides with extremely low local PCR testing. To stave off a spike in infections during the Orthodox Easter holiday weekend, the country will observe a 24/7 lockdown from Saturday to Monday, Petra Khoury, the head of the national COVID-19 task force, told L’Orient Today. Despite a dip in cases, herd immunity seems a far-off prospect, as 10 vaccination centers have had to cancel scheduled appointments due to a delayed shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines, the Health Ministry announced yesterday.

Farmers from the Jardiya area in northern Dinnieh and Al-Qasr in Hermel say swarms of locusts have now descended upon their areas. Residents in Jardiya called on the army and the Agriculture Ministry to prevent the insects from damaging their crops, according to local media reports. Those in Al-Qasr were pushed to “a state of panic” after the locusts infested orchards in the border town, the NNA said. The infestation is spreading even after the army sprayed insecticide from helicopters in the Labweh area of Baalbeck amid warnings from caretaker Agriculture Minister Abbas Mortada of a possible increase in the number of locusts in certain regions of the country.

The land transport union will hold a press conference today at 12 p.m. to publicly discuss issues facing its members. Yesterday, a union delegation met with Deputy Prime Minister Zeina Akar to highlight issues ranging from the transportation curfew, to the potential removal of fuel subsidies, to difficulties related to mechanical inspections, the NNA reported. They also met with the caretaker health minister in an attempt to accelerate the vaccination of truck drivers, who are currently forced to repeat PCR tests several times on a single trip as they cross borders.


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