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Tears in the Crowded Streets of Damascus Waiting Coronavirus

Tears in the Crowded Streets of Damascus Waiting Coronavirus

Thursday, 2 April, 2020 - 11:45
Asharq Al-Awsat Explores Preparations in the Markets of the Syrian Capital
Damascus - Asharq Al-Awsat

Syrian official TV channels, text messages and advertisements, keep reminding citizens of protecting themselves through abiding by the health guidelines issued especially self-isolation.

However, daily life scenes from Damascus show that citizens are not in compliance with these measures. Fears of being infected with coronavirus are being put aside because of the need to meet necessities, especially for the extremely poor who account for over eighty percent of the population, according to studies.

It is extremely crowded around cars that distribute subsidized bread made by government bakeries, a crowd that will surely spread the virus. The near-total lack of liquidity makes it impossible for Syrian people to meet their basic needs from the market, the prices of which exceed those of subsidized bread 10 fold. In a neighborhood very close to Bab Touma, I saw a man who seemed to be around sixty years of age begging for a single slice of this subsidized bread.

Vegetables and Eggs

Blank faces are seen around the vegetable market. Questions are asked about the prices of just about everything while almost nothing is purchased. There, I saw a woman picking up the bags of lettuce that were falling as they were being moved from the truck to the vegetable stand. When the owner of the truck asked her in a loud, stern voice, to wait for him to finish his work, she cursed him and said: “Shut up! You called all eyes on me”.

She walked off and left the bags behind. Their conditions have deteriorated to such an extent that lemons are bought by the piece and onions are sometimes avoided altogether.

The price of an egg has increased to one hundred Liras, around twenty cents. In a small popular grocery store, Rahaf buys three eggs for lunch, for herself and her two brothers. "What about your mother, Rahaf?" : “My mom doesn't like eggs, she eats a loaf of bread greased with vegetable oil and cheap thyme".

A Different Kind of Pain

The price of detergents has skyrocketed in Damascus; the price of chlorine, alcohol and all kinds of disinfectants has increased. This is accompanied by a collective panic situation that no one can relieve, and there are no assurances that these materials may become available for free or at “protected” prices in official outlets, or that the merchants' greed will be curtailed. Overnight, the price of a mask increased from seventy-five pounds to three hundred and fifty pounds, and the package of alcohol from nine hundred pounds to two thousand five hundred pounds; then, they disappeared from the markets altogether despite the insane rise in prices.

Many have lost their jobs, especially the daily-wage workers, domestic workers and bus and minibus drivers. Some of the construction and manufacturing projects were canceled for fear of accumulating losses.

Whoever continues to work must return to the house before six o'clock in the evening, and on foot, since there is no public transportation any longer.

While the corona pandemic is caused by a tiny virus, then the accumulation of crises that weigh daily on the lives of the Syrians have turned the advent of the pandemic into a disaster.

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