In Lebanon, coronavirus outbreak prompts a quarantine for mountain town
BSHARRI, Lebanon — When Lebanon reported its first coronavirus infection in February, the case was a woman who had come from the Muslim holy city of Qom in Iran, which was rapidly becoming the epicenter of the epidemic in the Middle East.
Iran has long been a factor in Lebanon’s highly sectarian politics, and many Lebanese were quick to cast blame on Iran and local Shiite Muslims for Lebanon’s widening outbreak. Avoid Shiite villages and areas, some urged.
So when, weeks later, it emerged that the largest cluster of coronavirus cases in the country was actually in the insular Christian hamlet of Bsharri in the mountains above Beirut, the irony was not lost on many in Lebanon. Bsharri is known for its devout Maronite Christian inhabitants and as a bastion of right-wing Christian militiamen during the country’s long civil war.