A Lebanese taxi driver set his car alight on the main road leading to Beirut’s airport Tuesday after being fined by police for not complying with measures to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Videos that circulated on social media showed a white Renault vehicle engulfed in flames while Lebanese Army soldiers tried to hold back the driver, who was shouting in clear distress.
Over the weekend, Lebanon’s military and security forces stepped up their crackdown on members of the public violating orders to remain at home except in cases of “extreme necessity” to curb the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The total number of coronavirus cases in Lebanon rose to 304 Tuesday, according to the Health Ministry. Four people have died from the disease so far.
The ramped-up measures included setting up checkpoints on key roads, army patrols touring the streets and Internal Security Forces handing out hundreds of tickets every day.
Taxi drivers condemn government fines
Taxis travelling with more than two passengers are subject to fines of upwards of 50,000 Lebanese lira.
A local committee for public transport drivers, including taxi drivers, issued a statement Tuesday condemning the fines, as they are being imposed on people who take key workers such as nurses and bakers to and from their jobs.
“The committee calls on the government to find rapid alternative solutions to ensure drivers have a minimum decent standard of living in these difficult circumstances,” the statement added.
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Taxi drivers are among the thousands of workers in Lebanon who rely on day-to-day earnings and do not have a social safety net to fall back on. According to a 2019 International Labour Organization survey, these informal workers make up around 55 percent of Lebanon’s workforce.
Despite the government-imposed lockdown and the significant risk of contracting the coronavirus, many of these people continue to go out to work simply to earn enough money to provide for their families.
A GoFundMe page was set up just hours after the incident to raise $10,000 to enable the taxi driver to buy another car and “get back the source of his income.”
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