Coronavirus tests Algeria’s protest movement

Month after month, protesters in Algeria have braved cold weather, the threat of force and arrests to demand an end to decades of kleptocratic rule – only to now be confronted by an unexpected obstacle: the new coronavirus.

With 37 confirmed cases to date and three deaths recorded from the coronavirus outbreak, now classified a pandemic by the World Health Organization, members of the year-old protest movement appear divided on how and whether they should continue their weekly demonstrations.

Still, several hundred protesters on Friday took to the streets of central Algiers, defying authorities’ calls to desist marching.

“Neither the coronavirus nor the cholera is going to stop us, we’re getting our freedom, come what may,” they chanted. “The coronavirus isn’t going to scare us, we were brought up in misery.”

But not everybody appeared to be singing from the same hymn sheet, with many taking to social media to denounce what they called irresponsible behaviour.

“You won’t be of much help to Algeria if you’re dead,” wrote one Twitter user.

In Oran, Algeria’s second-biggest city where literature laureate Albert Camus’s famous novel The Plague is set, protesters appeared to be heeding authorities’ calls, with far fewer numbers taking to the streets on Friday.

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