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Lebanese protest rise in poverty amid covid lockdown – Middle East Monitor

Anti-lockdown protesters clashed with police in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli last night, leaving 45 injured.

At least nine were taken to hospital for treatment by the Lebanese Red Cross following the clashes.

Protesters targeted government offices, torched a military vehicle and blocked the city’s main square.

The army was deployed to contain the demonstrators, Lebanon’s National News Agency (NNA) reported.

Demonstrators have been angered by the national lockdown which has worsened the already dire economic situation and prevented many from working.

Anger boiled over in Tripoli on Monday night leading to similar clashes that left 30 people injured.

Protesters also took to the streets in the southern Lebanese town of Saida, in a show of solidarity with demonstrators in Tripoli.

Last week, authorities lengthened a nationwide lockdown, extending the restrictions until at least mid-February.

The move angered Lebanon’s residents, many of whom rely on daily income to feed their families.

READ: Lebanese herders, Israeli military row over cows grazing near border

In the previous three lockdowns, the government provided financial assistance to those unable to work because of the restrictions, according to Al Jazeera. However, the government is yet to announce plans to help vulnerable people financially under the current round-the-clock curfew.

Under the lockdown rules, shops and restaurants have been shuttered and grocery shopping restricted to home deliveries which are often not available in poor areas.

Lebanon is also grappling with a debilitating economic crisis that started at the same time as mass anti-government protests in October 2019.

The Mediterranean state’s currency has lost more than 80 per cent of its value over the past 12 months and seen 50 per cent of the population pushed under the poverty line.

Despite economic concerns, the most recent lockdown has been forced after a spike in coronavirus cases, caused by a relaxation of lockdown rules over the Christmas period, threatened to overwhelm Lebanon’s health sector.

The country of six million people has seen over 280,000 cases and 2,477 deaths from the disease since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Delivery of the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is expected next month under a World Bank funded programme.

The initial vaccine rollout will target priority groups including high risk healthcare workers, people aged 65 and over, and citizens aged between 55 and 64 with comorbidities.

Controversially, journalists have also been included in the high priority group list.

READ: Palestinian refugees in Lebanon to receive free covid vaccine

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