Most recently, a video of a young student named Hussein Fares is making its way around Lebanese social media. Fares, from Tyre and currently living in France, contracted the coronavirus and is in the hospital.
In the video, his message to people was, “In France, the country of innovation and technology, people are dying… this is not a joke.”
He feels like hospitals in France will begin selecting who to treat or not.
France is the fourth European country with the highest coronavirus cases. To date, there are over 39,000 currently infected patients and over 4,000 deaths.
The961 reached out to some Lebanese students residing in France to find out what life is like for them during this pandemic.
A student (A.S) traveled to France to pursue a Ph.D. after finishing his master’s degree in Lebanon. He says: “It is co-directed (Lebanon-France), thus my funding is from Lebanon. Since November, we are having trouble receiving our scholarships (bank transfers, limits, etc.).”
Unable to ask for financial help in France, he relies on a monthly payment that comes from Lebanon.
Concerning the coronavirus, A.S. says, “Health-wise, the situation here is a bit scary. The government is not doing the COVID-19 test for everyone calling the hotline.”
He explains that some of his colleagues who developed mild symptoms were denied the test and told to remain quarantined.
“We believe that if they increase the number of tests they do per day, the number of cases would be double by now,” he says.
Regarding the safety measures taken by the French government, A.S. believes it has improved since the beginning of the outbreak but, according to him, it is too late. “It is hard both financially and mentally,” he expressed.
Down in southwestern France, Amani Kabbara thinks the French government is finally taking things seriously, “although they should have done this a while ago.”
Kabbara, a Ph.D. student at the University of Bordeaux says, “[During] my last weeks in the lab, everyone was saying it was just the flu and we shouldn’t stop working. So finally they realized that the situation is serious.”
“Most of the students who receive money from their parents didn’t receive anything [recently]. For the government to help, you have to apply and it would take time to get the help you need,” she explains.
“I know that the embassy also is trying to help out students who apply to go back to Lebanon or that are in need of money, but I think this may take time as well.”
However, she adds, “What is actually good is that here, in Bordeaux, all the Lebanese families and student associations are helping these students. Funds are being collected from paid students and employees to buy food anonymously for the students who did not receive any money from their parents and who need essential supplies in this crisis.”
Kabbara believes that it’s safer for Lebanese students to stay in France, as long as their parents are able to transfer money to them. This will avoid burdening the Lebanese government in case an infected person returns.
She highlights that medical services in France are good and that if people remain responsible then they can get through this.
“The real and only issue is just money transfer. Parents [cannot] transfer their own money to them and that is just cruel!
Jack Fallah, a student of engineering in France, believes that France was late in acting against the virus. However, the measures the government has taken in efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus are being implemented strongly with police spread at every corner.
“I live in Poitiers, which is relatively still safe compared to Paris and the east of France,” Fallah explains. “The government has allowed people to leave the house once a day for one-hour maximum to exercise or walk their dogs, but only as far as a kilometer away from our front doors.”
“Living alone, I am thankful for the internet, which is helping me stay connected to the people I love during this difficult phase,” he says.
Samir El Hazzouri, who resides in Paris, says that he would have loved to spend this confinement period with his family back home, but didn’t register to return.
“If by going back to Lebanon, there is a small chance of infecting someone or taking someone’s place in the ICU beds, I am not taking take that risk.”
Hazzouri has been lucky to recently move in with four of his friends, who he says are now “being the support and the daily motivation for each other.”
“Something that has really surprised me is the speed and scale of the response of the Lebanese government, compared to first world countries, and hopefully the success of it,” he concluded.
Get the latest news and updates about the coronavirus outbreak in Lebanon along with a live monitor of cases in Lebanon as well as resources and information to help you guide the outbreak on our dedicated coronavirus page.