Disaster-weary Beirut residents defy new lockdown regardless of COVID surge

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© Reuters. People walk at a crowded souk as the Lebanese government ordered a national lockdown, to combat a resurgence of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak

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BEIRUT (Reuters) – Beirut’s popular Sabra market teemed with shoppers this week, some of them unmasked, in apparent defiance of a full national lockdown imposed on Saturday to stem a resurgence of coronavirus infections.

The Lebanese government ordered the two-week restrictions, including a 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew on Sundays, as new daily infections rose above 1,000.

Lebanon reported 1,016 new infections on Monday, bringing its total to 106,446 cases and 827 deaths since Feb. 21.

After city streets and roads emptied on Sunday, pedestrians were back on Monday and some motorists could be seen flouting a re-imposed odd-even licence plate alternate day driving rule.

“This doesn’t work … As you can see, people are on the streets, they (authorities) should have, from the beginning, followed a certain plan that doesn’t harm the economy and goes along with our situation because we’re special in Lebanon,” taxi driver Mahdi Msheik told Reuters Television.

“Besides corona(virus), we have another crisis, the bank crisis. You can’t completely shut down because if you do, there are people who work on a daily basis, what do you do with them?”

Even before the pandemic, Lebanon was reeling from a financial crisis that crashed the currency and paralysed banks, freezing savers out of their deposits.

“We’re going to get some food, but there’s no lockdown here. Go see the highways, no odd or even (car) plates, everyone’s out,” said Rami Fathalla , a beauty salon worker.

“More people are not complying and have no masks. This is wrong, especially in a popular market,” said Mohammed Noureddine as he shopped at Sabra market.

The new lockdown has, however, seen more checkpoints on highways, with police handing out tickets for those flouting rules.

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