Flower shops in locked-down Lebanon open for Mother's Day but nobody comes

BEIRUT, March 21 (Reuters) - Iman Tohme sanitized her Beirut flower shop, disinfected all the plants and announced they would deliver for Mother's Day on Saturday. But with Lebanon on coronavirus lockdown, almost nobody came or made an order.

"We put out ads that people don't need to come down here, that we will start delivering, that we disinfect the flowers. But despite it all, people are afraid," Tohme told Reuters.

Next to her, pink, red and yellow rose bouquets adorned with balloons that read "Love you MOM" stood untouched.

Lebanon's government ordered shut most of the country this week, hoping to rein in a coronavirus outbreak that has infected 206 people so far, with four deaths.

This has compounded woes in a country suffering from an economic crisis that has hiked prices and slashed jobs.

While flower and seed farmers said they got an exception to stay in business just for Mother's Day - one of the industry's top moneymakers - coronavirus curbs and worries still kept most people away.

It is usually the most important day of the year for Nidal abi-Hussain, but his plantation is empty now, except for a few workers wearing gloves and masks.

"The state shut stores, the production is all going to waste, as you can see, and the losses are in the millions," the floral distributor said.

Ramzi Takkouch closed his shop and offered only online deliveries this year, but even so, he said people were afraid of getting flowers at home.

"I know a lot of mothers telling their kids 'don't come visit' because they're scared of the infection," he said.

"This is Lebanon's most miserable year: the economy is dead and now we got corona," Takkouch added. "It was at rock bottom and now it's worse. May God relieve us, that's all we can say." (Reporting by Issam Abdallah; Writing by Ellen Francis Editing by Frances Kerry)