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Businesses Protest COVID-19 Lockdown in East Algeria

Businesses Protest COVID-19 Lockdown in East Algeria

Monday, 1 June, 2020 - 07:30
A vendor wearing a protective face mask serves a customer inside her shop in Algiers, Algeria (File photo: Reuters)

Hundreds of Algerian business owners protested the lockdown measures imposed by authorities to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

Algeria has been on coronavirus shutdown for three months after authorities extended the general lockdown until June 13.

Merchants in el-Eulma city, in eastern Algeria, protested in front of their closed shops urging authorities to allow them to resume business.

Abdulkader Meksi, who is in the household appliances business, explained that people are determined to end the lockdown and will not wait for the government’s local representative to grant them the authorization to open.

He told Asharq al-Awsat that people are angry and on the brink of becoming bankrupt, while the government refuses to provide aid such as exempting them from taxes or paying electricity and water bills.

The protesters then ended their march and elected a group to meet the governor and inform him of their intentions to resume business despite the renewed lockdown.

El-Eulma market, dubbed as Dubai market, is the largest in the country. The government has been trying for years to persuade its merchants to deposit their money in banks to no avail.

In Bejaia city in the east, protesting merchants were divided, as a group wanted to remain in the streets until authorities have responded to their demands, while others preferred to meet the governor and explain their dire economic situations following months of lockdown.

The angry protesters announced they will open their stores on Monday no matter what.

Some of the vendors mocked the “coronavirus grant” distributed by the authorities to those whose businesses were affected by the lockdown. They indicated that the $80 does not cover their basic needs.

Both marches in Bejaia and Eulma protested authorities' measures allowing members of the “Democratic National Rally” and “National Liberation Front” to hold meetings in Algiers despite the lockdown and calls for social distancing.

Several media outlets published pictures of the two meetings which were in clear violation of the measures imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The images sparked outrage among business owners who accused the authorities of “double standards” in implementing the measures.

Observers believe the authorities did not lift the lockdown to avoid resumption of the weekly popular protests that were suspended early in March due to the high rate of coronavirus infections.

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