At least one person died and dozens more were wounded in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli on Monday after protests over Lebanon’s increasingly dire economic situation deteriorated into rioting, Arab media reported on Tuesday. Rioters set fire to an army vehicle and destroyed bank fronts, according to the AP.
The Lebanese national currency plummeted to a record low over the weekend, with the country’s central bank having to issue instructions on Sunday night forbidding currency exchange shops to sell U.S. dollars for more than 3,200 pounds, despite the official rate being 1,507 pounds per dollar, according to the report. Food prices in the country have reportedly skyrocketed, as the country struggles with record unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic has only exacerbated Lebanon’s already deteriorating economy; on March 9 the country failed to repay a $1.2 billion Eurobond, marking the first sovereign default in the country’s history.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets across Lebanon on Monday, blocking roads and attacking banks, after the currency’s rapid devaluation wiped out a large percentage of their salaries and savings. The protests prevented medical teams from leaving Beirut to conduct coronavirus tests, with Lebanon’s Health Ministry urging protestors to let the medical teams through, according to the AP.
The current protests come in the context of mass demonstrations against government corruption that began in October 2019. Those protests slowed during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, but picked up again after the country began to ease lockdown measures on Monday.
Tripoli, Lebanon’s northern capital, has some of the highest unemployment and poverty rates in the country.
The country has reported 710 coronavirus-related cases and 24 deaths.