The Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL) has announced that all banks across the country will remain closed on Wednesday, October 23, until the situation stabilizes amid ongoing protests against tax increases and perceived government corruption. The Ministry of Education has also announced that public and private schools will remain closed until further notice as of Wednesday.
As of the morning (local time) on Wednesday, several roads remain blocked by protesters. This includes Beirut's express ring road Place Sassine, as well as the road to the Beirut Rafic Hariri International Airport (BEY) from the Salim Salam tunnel. The main road to the Ministry of Education is also reportedly blocked.
In the Kesrouan District, roads in Bouar, Okaybeh, Safra, Zouk Mikayel, Jeyta, and Achkout are blocked. The road from Tyr to Abbassiyeh is blocked at several intersections. Roadblocks were also reported in Tripoli, Jbeil, Akkar, Nabatiyeh, Zghorta, Koura, Miriata, Ardeh, Denniyeh, Zahlé, Kab Élias, Jdita, Masnaa, Rachaya, Manara, Tarchiche, and on the Miniyeh highway.
Authorities have also closed several roads to traffic, including the Chevrolet roundabout in Metn, the Rizkallah roundabout in Sin el-Fil, the roundabout in Aley, and adjacent roads. Road closures were also reported in Dbayeh, Jal el-Dib, Furn el-Chebbak, Mansourieh, the Chouf, and Jbeil.
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 16-17, the government approved tax hikes on tobacco products as part of its 2020 federal budget, as well as a 20 percent daily tax for individuals messaging via the WhatsApp mobile phone messenger application. The announcement sparked mass protests across the country on October 17, forcing the government to revoke the tax proposal. Since then, protests have evolved calling for the resignation of the government, and have continued despite an emergency reform package announced by Prime Minister Saad Hariri on October 21. The packages 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. At least five people were killed, and several hundred protesters and security forces 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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