Police stop anti-lockdown protesters from blocking Beirut street

Witnesses said dozens of police in riot gear fanned out in Corniche al-Mazraa after a small number of residents tried to block it to express their opposition to the 13-day-old shutdown

  
Garbage bins, set on fire by demonstrators, block a road during a protest against the lockdown and worsening economic conditions, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Tripoli, Lebanon January 26, 2021.

Garbage bins, set on fire by demonstrators, block a road during a protest against the lockdown and worsening economic conditions, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Tripoli, Lebanon January 26, 2021.

Reuters/Omar Ibrahim

BEIRUT: Riot police deployed Tuesday to stop protesters from closing a main street in Beirut, in the latest manifestation of anger against a nationwide total lockdown aimed at containing a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases.

Witnesses said dozens of police in riot gear fanned out in Corniche al-Mazraa after a small number of residents tried to block it to express their opposition to the 13-day-old shutdown. There were no direct confrontations between the two sides and the road remained open.

Later, protesters closed roads and a key highway in northern and southern parts of the country with burning tires and rocks before Lebanese soldiers quickly moved in and reopened them. There were no incidents there as well.

It was a different story hours earlier when demonstrators clashed with security forces in the northern port city of Tripoli Monday night.

The National News Agency (NNA) said security personnel had clashed with demonstrators, angered at "the lockdown, fines against those who flout it and the suffocating economic crisis" according to the National News Agency, burned tires and threw rocks, to which security forces responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

NNA said some protesters had thrown rocks at the main government building, while the Lebanese Red Cross reported that more than 30 people were injured, six of them hospitalized.

Anti-lockdown protests had also been reported in the southern city of Sidon over the weekend and the closure has hit hard impoverished areas already grappling to deal with the worst economic and financial crisis in decades.

Lebanon last week extended a total lockdown by two weeks -- until Feb. 8 -- to stem a rise in coronavirus cases and protect its collapsing health care sector.

The restrictions include a round-the-clock curfew with grocery shopping limited to home deliveries, aimed at reining in one of the steepest spikes in COVID-19 infections in the world.

Cases skyrocketed after families gathered during the end-of-year holidays and authorities allowed revelers to gather in bars until 3 a.m., despite warnings from health experts.

The country of 6 million has seen nearly 300,000 cases and over 2,404 deaths from the disease. Lebanon is expecting its first vaccine shipment next month.

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