On Wednesday, November 27, the caretaker Health Minister Jamil Jabaq urged central banks to release dollars in an ongoing currency shortage that is squeezing the economy. The decision has also had an impact on the health sector, affecting the supply of medical equipment. The reduction of US Dollars in the economy has forced importers to resort to money exchange sources offering a higher exchange rate, sparking price hikes.
A third night of confrontation between party supporters and demonstrators was reported on Tuesday, November 26, resulting in violence. An hours-long standoff between residents was reported in Ain al-Remmaneh and Chyah. Further, objects were thrown at each side across a symbolic road that divided the Christian East Beirut and Muslim West Beirut during the 1975-1990 war. Residents of Bikfaya also blocked the town's entrance.
The Lebanese Economic Bodies group, a private sector entity, has called for a three-day strike, from Thursday, November 28, through Saturday, November 30, in order to pressure major parties to form a new government.
Additional protests are to be expected nationwide, though especially in Beirut, over the coming several days. Heightened security measures and disruptions to transportation and businesses are to be expected in major urban centers during the general strike and as protests continue. Clashes between protesters and 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 daily tax on messages and calls done 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. On October 29, Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation. Former finance minister, Mohammad Safadi, who was expected to be appointed as Hariri's successor, declined on November 17, stating the difficulties to form a legitimate cabinet in this context.
Individuals in Lebanon 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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