Another lockdown awaits Lebanon as the troubled country faces an unprecedented surge in coronavirus cases. But in a country where almost everything hinges on sectarian considerations, even urgent public health decisions are being based around this understanding.
The new lockdown will go into force on Thursday January 7, one day after Orthodox Armenian Christmas Day, until February 1, with a curfew between 6 pm and 5 am.
However, this decision was criticized by the public for not being implemented “soon enough” as the country’s daily coronavirus figures skyrocketed and hospitals ran out of capacity to take in patients.
While many countries around the world imposed stricter measures during the holiday season, Lebanon did the opposite. Authorities eased up restrictions in December to usher in the holiday season, in a bid to revitalize the country’s collapsing economy.
Lebanon ended 2020 with a record-breaking number of cases registered on New Year’s Eve that crossed the 3,000 mark. Social gatherings, parties and events were widely held with little adherence to prevention guidelines.
Numerous officials warned that the situation in the country was catastrophic, and that painful decisions would have to be made to mitigate the crisis, as the healthcare system nears collapse, with hospitals in the capital reaching full capacity to take in virus patients and running out of Intensive Care Unit beds.
As the holiday season came to a close for most people in Lebanon, people flocked to hospitals and testing centers to undergo the PCR test. Calls for a lockdown intensified, as many experts warned that the worst was yet to come as the consequences of the holiday gatherings would surface around 10 days into the New Year.
However, authorities met over the weekend and finally took the decision to place the country under lockdown on Monday, with the start date on January 7.
Orthodox Armenians celebrate Christmas Eve on January 5 and Christmas Day on January 6
As most people celebrated Christmas last month with no restrictions, authorities wanted to wait until after Armenians were able to celebrate as well, in line with the norm in Lebanon to carry out decisions, appoint officials and share seats in accordance to the country’s confessional system.
Some took to social media to criticize the Armenian community and Armenian leaders, even going as far as calling them “criminals” for causing the postponement of a lockdown that is urgently needed to save lives.
The issue sparked a row online as many cautioned against sectarian rhetoric.
Head of the Armenian parliamentary bloc MP Hagop Pakradounian on Sunday hit back on these claims and asked authorities to refrain from citing the Armenian Christmas for their decision-making, calling for an immediate lockdown to be implemented, “because people’s lives are more important than holidays, celebrations and sectarian shares.”
Another Armenian MP, Hagop Terzian also said that linking people’s health with the birth of Jesus Christ celebrated by the Armenian community is shameful. He warned against involving sectarianism in this matter.
Armenians around the world, including in Lebanon are also in mourning this holiday season as they suffered insurmountable losses as a result of the 44-day Nagorno-Karabakh war with Azerbaijan in the fall. More than 3,000 Armenian soldiers fell during the hostilities with neighboring Azerbaijan, that concluded with a cease-fire agreement that saw Armenia cede large swathes of territory they controlled.