Protests are ongoing in Beirut as of 10:30 (local time) on Monday, October 21, in the fifth consecutive day of demonstrations against tax increases and alleged government corruption. Activists have gathered in the Riad El Solh Square, prompting authorities to close several roads. In Beirut, transport authorities have closed Place Sassine and the Cola roundabout, and have installed a roadblock at the Saifi roundabout. Other road closures are in place in the Metn and Kesrouane districts (Mount Lebanon Governorate), the Bekaa, and in the north of the country including in Tripoli.
The Association of Banks in Lebanon announced on Sunday, October 20, that all banks across the country will be closed on Monday. ATM machines have a limited cash supply, according to diplomatic sources. The Minister of Education has reportedly ordered all nurseries to close on Monday, but has said that it is up to the heads of other educational institutions to decide whether they will reopen on Monday.
The government is expected to approve a series of reforms aimed at alleviating the ongoing economic crisis at 11:30 (local time) on Monday. The package calls for a reduction in the salaries of government officials, a plan to privatize the telecommunications sector, and a proposed overhaul of the electricity sector. Officials stated that no new taxes would be levied as part of the proposed reforms.
Heightened security measures and transportation and business disruptions are to be expected in major urban centers over the coming days as protests continue. Similar protests are likely in major urban areas in the coming hours. Clashes between protesters and security forces cannot be ruled out.
On October 16, the government approved tax hikes on tobacco products as part of its 2020 federal budget. Information Minister Jama Jarrah announced a 20 percent daily tax for individuals messaging via the WhatsApp mobile phone messenger application on October 17. However, the announcement sparked spontaneous protests on October 17, forcing the government to revoke the tax proposal. Protests were notably reported in Beirut, Sidon, Tripoli, Jounieh, Jbeil, and the Bekaa Valley. On October 19, members of the Lebanese Forces, a Christian political party, stepped down from government due to the inability of the current coalition government to effectively respond to the demands of protesters. Demonstrators have called for the rest of government to resign. Several hundred protesters and security forces have been injured in the protests.
Individuals in Lebanon, and particularly in Beirut, are advised to monitor developments to the situation, avoid all protests and demonstrations as a precaution, anticipate transportation and business disruptions, and adhere to instructions issued by local authorities.
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