Conflict-hit Libya launches coronavirus jab campaign

·2 min read
Libyan Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah receives his vaccination against coronavirus

Libya officially launched its coronavirus vaccination campaign on Saturday, starting with Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah, health authorities in the conflict-hit nation said.

"The national vaccination campaign against Covid-19 has been launched at the CDC headquarters" on Tripoli's outskirts, said Badreddine al-Najjar, head of Libya's Centre for Disease Control.

After the vaccination of Dbeibah, who heads a newly established Government of National Unity, Health Minister Ali al-Zenati was next to receive a jab, an AFP journalist said.

Dbeibah urged fellow citizens to register online for their own vaccinations.

He has earmarked the country's jab campaign as a policy priority, alleging vaccine delivery was hindered by outgoing authorities.

"The arrival of vaccines has been delayed by political, not financial, considerations," he said.

Dbeibah was selected earlier this year through a UN-backed inter-Libyan dialogue to lead the country to national elections in December 2021.

His government replaces two rival administrations based in Tripoli and the country's east, the latter loyal to military strongman Khalifa Hafter, whose forces tried but failed to seize the capital in a 2019-20 offensive.

The rival authorities have given their backing to the new administration, adding to tentative hopes that Libya can exit a decade of crisis.

Mired in chaos since dictator Moamer Kadhafi was deposed and killed in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising, the country has lately been detecting around 1,000 new coronavirus cases per day.

The World Health Organization said Thursday that two new variants of the coronavirus are present in Libya.

Officially, Libya has registered a total of around 167,000 coronavirus cases, including over 2,800 deaths, out of a population of seven million.

No lockdown measures are currently in place, and while masks are obligatory in public places, the measure is widely flouted.

Libya has so far received 200,000 doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, alongside over 57,600 AstraZeneca shots, the latter delivered through the Covax programme for lower and middle income countries.