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Two killed as Gabonese citizens protest coronavirus restrictions

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LIBREVILLE (Reuters) – Two people have died after demonstrations in Gabon, two major cities, the prime minister said on Friday as anger over restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 spilled over into a road jam.

Thursday night security forces fired tear gas and stun grenades into several neighborhoods in the capital Libreville and Port Gentil to disperse protesters who hit pots and set up barricades, burning tires and debris.

Last night, two of our compatriots died during protests against these safeguards, Prime Minister Rose Christine Ossouka Raponda said in a statement.

Gabon restricted travel in and out of the capital and extended the curfew to slow the spread of coronavirus infections last week. The siege starting two hours earlier at 6pm (1700 GMT) until 6am liberated some citizens.

The new 6pm measure is harsh and thoughtless, law student Sarah Lewoubi said on Friday.

She added that most Gabonese workers and students who do not have cars try to return home before the curfew.

Work ends at 4pm and it is impossible to get to our homes for the most part before 8pm due to traffic jams and other problems. So the government should reconsider this issue, Lewoubi said.

Gabon has reported 13,107 coronavirus infections and 75 deaths from COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic. The central African nation is experiencing a second wave of infections, reporting 133 new cases on average every day.

The restrictions will be eased when new infections fall below 50 a day, which should be reached by March, Raponda said.

All of these measures were adopted, not for the pleasure of disrupting our daily lives, but to protect our health and lives, she said.

Reporting by Gerauds Wilfried Obangome; Written by Bate Felix; Edited by Alex Richardson and Grant McCool

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