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Protesters Paralyze Lebanon Amid Crises03/08 06:15

   

   BEIRUT (AP) -- Protesters closed all major roads leading to the Lebanese 
capital on Monday, causing traffic jams and triggering a call by the head of 
the hospitals union who warned that such moves are preventing oxygen supplies 
from reaching medical centers treating coronavirus patients.

   The dayslong protests come against the backdrop of a crash in the local 
currency, increase of consumer goods prices and political bickering between 
rival groups that has delayed the formation of a new government.

   Since the early morning hours, small groups of demonstrators blocked the 
southern, northern and eastern entrances to Beirut with burning tires and by 
parking vehicles on the main roads. In other parts of Lebanon, army soldiers 
briefly opened some roads only to have protesters close them again shortly 
afterward.

   Sleiman Haroun, President of the Syndicate of Hospitals in Lebanon, told The 
Associated Press that after a two-day weekend when there is no oxygen 
distribution, some hospitals are running low and urgently need supplies, 
especially to treat COVID-19 patients.

   "This is not a joke. It is a matter of life and death," Haroun said urging 
protesters to allow vehicles carrying supplies of oxygen to pass. There are 
several oxygen plants around Lebanon and they supply hospitals throughout the 
country, including some in remote areas.

   Despite a weekslong lockdown in Lebanon, cases of coronavirus remain high in 
the tiny country, with 2,377 new cases registered on Sunday, raising the total 
cases since February last year to more than 395,000. The virus has also killed 
5,047 people, including 33 on Sunday.

   On Saturday, Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab warned that the 
country was quickly headed toward chaos and appealed to politicians to put 
aside their differences in order to form a new government that can attract 
desperately needed foreign assistance.

   In October, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri was named to form a new 
Cabinet but five months later, disagreements between him and President Michel 
Aoun on the shape of the Cabinet has stood in the way of a new government's 
formation.

   The local currency hit a record law against the U.S. dollar on Saturday 
getting to close to 11,000 pounds on the black market.

   Lebanon has been hit by one crisis after another, starting with nationwide 
protests in October 2019 that revealed a severe financial and economic crisis. 
The situation was made worse by coronavirus and a massive blast at Beirut's 
port in August that killed 211, wounded more than 6,000 and damaged large parts 
of Beirut.

 
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