BEIRUT: At approximately 8 p.m. Sunday Lebanese under lockdown stepped onto their balconies and erupted into nationwide applause for their country’s health-care workers on the front lines fighting coronavirus.
The applause, which has become a global phenomenon during the pandemic, is equal parts gratitude, defiance and celebration as citizens going stir crazy under lockdown gave thanks to the heroes putting themselves at risk daily in Lebanon’s hospitals.
Lebanon is entering its third week under lockdown measures to prevent the spread of the virus, which have gradually intensified since the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed Feb 21. Citizens are not permitted to be out of their homes between the hours of 7 p.m. and 5 a.m.
So far, there have been 438 recorded infections in the country and 10 deaths. Of these, thirty patients have recovered.
Lebanon’s hospitals have been struggling to keep up with the rapidly increasing number of coronavirus cases and the country faces a severe shortage of medical supplies.
Human Rights Watch reported Tuesday that medical workers say they are understaffed and ill-equipped to protect themselves from coronavirus.
Capital controls limiting foreign transfers have prevented importers from bringing in any more than 10 percent of the supplies needed since September. Masks, gloves, other protective gear as well as ventilators and spare parts are scarce as a result, putting front-line staff at greater risk.
Currently, Rafik Hariri University Hospital has been bearing most of the burden of combating the virus. The Lebanese Red Cross, which has approximately 12,000 volunteers, has helped transport over 400 suspected coronavirus patients to date.
Standing ovations for health-care workers have been taking place globally, as the coronavirus has infected over 700,00 and claimed the lives of over 33,000 worldwide. Videos of applause have gone viral on social media from countries including the U.K., Turkey, France and Italy.