Protests amid Lebanon lockdown leave one dead and 220 injured

The clashes took place after frustrations boiled over amid strict coronavirus lockdown measures.

Lebanese army soldiers take cover during a protest against strict lockdown measures in Tripoli, north Lebanon
Lebanese army soldiers take cover during a protest against strict lockdown measures in Tripoli, north Lebanon

Violent confrontations between protesters and security forces in northern Lebanon left a 30-year-old man dead and more than 220 people injured, the state news agency said.

The clashes took place after frustrations boiled over amid deteriorating living conditions and strict coronavirus lockdown measures.

The violence in Tripoli, Lebanon’s second largest city, marked a serious escalation in protests that began on Monday and continued for three straight days into Wednesday night.

Dozens of people have been taking part in the nightly protests, throwing rocks at security forces and in some cases torching vehicles.

On Wednesday, protesters repeatedly tried to break into the municipal building. Some threw hand grenades at security forces, who responded with water cannons, volleys of tear gas and live ammunition.

Virus Outbreak Lebanon Protests
Lebanese police officers pass a car that was burned during a night of confrontations between security forces and protesters in Tripoli (Hussein Malla/AP)

The National News Agency said 226 people were injured in the confrontations, including 26 police.

One 30-year-old man died of his wounds, it said. The Red Cross said it transported 35 injured people to hospitals in the city.

The government has imposed a nearly month-long nationwide lockdown and round-the-clock curfew that lasts until February 8, amid a dramatic surge in coronavirus infections.

The measures have exacerbated a crippling economic and financial crisis that preceded the pandemic.

The Lebanese currency has crashed, losing more than 80% of its value.

Banks have imposed controls on withdrawals and transfers to protect dwindling foreign reserves. Unemployment and inflation have skyrocketed and tens of thousands have been thrown into poverty.

Virus Outbreak Lebanon
Rubbish and tyres burn during a protest against strict lockdown measures in Tripoli (AP Photo)

A power struggle between the president and prime minister-designate and fighting over Cabinet seats has blocked the formation of a new government, crucial to enacting reforms that would unlock foreign financial assistance.

The government resigned in August, following the massive explosion at a Beirut port that killed more than 200 people and wounded thousands.

The troubles have piled up since, including the recent surge in coronavirus cases largely blamed on a decision to relax lockdown measures over Christmas and New Year.

Some 80,000 expatriates travelled to the country to celebrate Christmas and New Year with family and friends.

Hospitals are now overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients, reporting near full occupancy in intensive care-unit beds.

Oxygen and ventilators are in short supply.

Nearly 290,000 infections have been recorded since last February and 2,553 deaths amid record-breaking Covid-19 daily fatalities.

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