Coronavirus and financial deterioration strip Lebanon’s Easter of joy

Special Coronavirus and financial deterioration strip Lebanon’s Easter of joy
A woman wears a mask to protect from COVID-19 , as she attends a Good Friday Mass for the Passion of Christ, at a church in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, April 2, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 03 April 2021

Coronavirus and financial deterioration strip Lebanon’s Easter of joy

Coronavirus and financial deterioration strip Lebanon’s Easter of joy
  • People are exhausted economically and psychologically, says Beirut restaurant owner

BEIRUT: With the advent of Easter for the Christian sects that follow the Western calendar, Lebanon entered on Saturday a new round of total lockdown and curfews.

The holiday atmosphere is non-existent for the second year running due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In addition, the economic crisis has diminished what was remaining of the holiday celebrations, which have been hampered by anti-virus measures.

The lockdown will continue until Tuesday morning.

On Saturday morning, roads were deserted and shops closed their doors, while supermarkets have committed to using an electronic platform that limits the number of customers allowed inside.

Restaurants resorted to providing takeaway and delivery services only.

The Internal Security Forces conducted vehicle and foot patrols and established checkpoints to control violations, stressing the necessity of wearing face masks.

The latest decision by the Ministry of the Interior permitted prayers in churches, provided they do not exceed 30 percent of their capacity, and that they commit to social distancing measures. Worshippers need to obtain a prior permit to traveling to church.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in Lebanon continues to approach half a million, while the death toll has exceeded 6,200.

The last of the politicians who contracted the virus have been Samir Geagea, head of the Lebanese Forces Party, and former Minister Ghassan Hasbani.

Dr. Firas Al-Abyad, director of the Hariri Governmental University Hospital, expressed his fear for an increase in the number of cases during Easter and Ramadan due to family gatherings.

The number of those who have received one dose of the vaccine has reached 149,687 people, with 81,680 receiving two doses.

Tony Bejjani, the owner of a restaurant in Beirut, said: “Easter this year is less than normal, and we have only fasted.”

He added: “There are no signs of Easter this year. None of the people I know have gone shopping.

“People do not communicate with each other for fear of contracting COVID-19, nor do they go to mass.”

Bejjani added: “People are exhausted economically and psychologically. Our work stopped for two months and 22 days after the New Year’s holiday due to the lockdown, and today we had to close again although the holidays are a good season in which we can make up for some of our losses.

“People are afraid and no one is happy. They are waiting for any opportunity to travel and never return.”

A bank employee with a salary that was relatively fair before the financial crisis said: “There is no joy this holiday. People are forbidden to meet, and if we go to church to pray, only two people are allowed to sit on the same bench.”

She said she “resorted for months to making sweets in my home and selling them through social media because the salary has barely been lasting a week with the deterioration of the Lebanese pound.”

She sarcastically said: “People did not buy regular eggs to color them this Easter after their price doubled, and they also stopped buying chocolate eggs.”

Lebanon has reached a blockage on the political level in the absence of any progress in mediation to resolve the conflict that has been obstructing the formation of the government for over 160 days.

This was the focus of an Easter message that Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi conveyed to the Lebanese people.

He criticized again the “ruling group and those surrounding it” and said: “They are manipulating the fate of the nation’s entirety, people, land, and dignity.”

He added in his harsh message to the politicians: “It has become clear that we are facing a plan that aims to change Lebanon in its entirety, including its system, identity, form, and traditions. There are parties that adopt a methodology of demolishing the constitutional, financial, banking, military, and judicial institutions.

“There are parties that also adopt the methodology of starting problems to prevent solutions and settlements. Let everyone realize that a country’s life is not made of quotas.”

As soon as Patriarch Al-Rahi concluded his message, President Michel Aoun tweeted that “fighting corruption is done by naming the corrupt and pointing to them. Generalizing the accusation anonymizes those who are truly corrupt and outrightly misleads the public opinion.”

Aoun’s comment raised many questions in political circles, especially with regard to its timing.

It was later announced that Aoun was heading to meet with Patriarch Al-Rahi on the eve of Easter.