Prominent singer Assi El Hallani's New Year concert causes outrage in Covid-hit Lebanon

Facing criticism online, Lebanese star defends hosting mass gathering called the 'biggest party in Beirut'

Mandatory Credit: Photo by MAHMOUD AHMED/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (10997081a)
Lebanese singer Assi el Hallani performs during the 29th edition of the Arab Music Festival at Cairo Opera House, Cairo, Egypt, 04, November 2020 (issued 05 November 2020).
Assi el Hallani concert in Cairo Opera House, Egypt - 04 Nov 2020
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A Lebanese singer was criticised for hosting a New Year’s Eve concert called the biggest party in Beirut, while ignoring pleas from experts to avoid large public gatherings.

A new wave of Covid-19 infections is crippling the country’s hospitals.

Video of Assi El Hallani serenading hundreds of partygoers during a glitzy event at the Hilton hotel in Beirut showed little sign of social distancing or mask wearing.

El Hallani, a household name in Beirut, was joined by two other performers for the concert, singers Melhem Zein and Nader Al Atat.

Facing criticism online, El Hallani implied jealousy was behind the criticism of his actions.

The success of the evening was "making some people crazy", he told one local outlet.

He also denied reports on social media of being fined for holding the concert.

“The party was held under licences from the ministries of health, tourism, culture and the interior. We held the party in the largest hotel in Lebanon, not in a corner," El Hallani said.

Some people were quick to condemn him on social media.

“You can see the sense of impending doom through the eyes of doctors and nurses at work," tweeted Bassam Osman, a surgeon at the American University of Beirut.

"I hope the few hours of music are worth the mass agony that is coming.”

Roula Douglas tweeted: “Actually it is your complete lack of responsibility that 'drove people crazy'."

The Hilton did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A parody of the concert’s "sold out" posters circulated online, claiming that Lebanon’s ICU beds were sold out as well as the event.

El Hallani, 50, who is from Baalbek, found fame across the region for his music and is a judge on the Middle East version of The Voice.

The concert came despite public health experts warning the country is at risk from a new wave of infections.

This week, Parliament’s health committee called for a three-week lockdown to stem the virus’ spread.

Petra Khoury, who leads the national Covid-19 task force, said more than 70 per cent of new infections were picked up at private gatherings in homes.

On Saturday, Lebanon’s Health Ministry recorded 2,520 new cases of the virus and 10 deaths.