Dozens injured in lockdown protests in Tripoli: Red Cross

BEIRUT (AFP) – Overnight clashes in northern Lebanon between security forces and demonstrators angered by a coronavirus lockdown injured at least 45 people, the Lebanese Red Cross said yesterday.

At least nine of the injured were treated in hospital following rolling scuffles in the main northern city of Tripoli, the Red Cross said.

Protesters lobbed molotovs, fireworks and stones at security forces who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, an AFP correspondent reported.

At least 30 people were injured in similar clashes in Tripoli on Monday night as frustration with tight coronavirus restrictions boiled over.

Tripoli was already one of Lebanon’s poorest areas even before the pandemic piled on new misery to a chronic economic crisis.

Many of its residents have been left without an income since Lebanon imposed a full lockdown earlier this month in a bid to stem a surge in COVID-19 cases and prevent its hospitals being overwhelmed.

“I cannot even bring bread home,” said Abdullah al-Bahr, a 39-year-old demonstrator.

“We are either going to die of hunger or the coronavirus,” the father of three told AFP.

In other parts of the country on Tuesday night, demonstrators blocked major roads in protest at the coronavirus restrictions.

Last week, authorities extended the lockdown by two weeks, angering day labourers and other vulnerable groups.

A round-the-clock curfew is in force nationwide and grocery shopping is restricted to home deliveries, which are often unavailable in poorer areas.

Lebanon has recorded over 285,000 coronavirus cases and more than 2,470 deaths since the pandemic began.

The outbreak compounded an economic crisis that has seen more than half of the population fall below the poverty line, with a quarter living in extreme poverty.

The authorities said they started disbursing monthly payments of LBP400,000 (around USD50 at the market rate) to some 230,000 families.

But Caretaker Social Affairs Minister Ramzi Musharrafieh acknowledged on Tuesday that three-quarters of the population of over six million need financial assistance.