Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah is being filmed live on television urging Libyans to register online for their own vaccinations.
Libya has launched its delayed COVID-19 vaccination campaign, with Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, Prime Minister of the country’s new unity government, being photographed on live television.
Officially, Libya has recorded a total of around 167,000 coronavirus cases, including more than 2,800 deaths, out of a population of seven million. Its healthcare system has struggled to cope during the pandemic, strained by years of political unrest and violence.
After Dbeibah was vaccinated on Saturday at the headquarters of the Libyan Center for Disease Control on the outskirts of the capital, Tripoli, Health Minister Ali al-Zenati was the next to receive a blow.
Libya has so far received 200,000 doses of the Russian vaccine against Sputnik V, as well as more than 57,600 injections of AstraZeneca, the latter being delivered under the COVAX program for low and middle income countries.
Dbeibah urged his fellow citizens to register online for their own vaccinations. He made the vaccination campaign a political priority, alleging that vaccine delivery had been hampered by outgoing authorities.
“The arrival of vaccines has been delayed by political considerations, not financial ones,” he said.
Dbeibah was selected earlier this year as part of a United Nations-sponsored Libyan dialogue to lead the country to national elections in December.
His government replaced two warring administrations based in Tripoli and the east of the country, the latter being loyal to the renegade military commander Khalifa Hafar. Rival authorities have given their support to the new administration, adding to tentative hopes that Libya can emerge from a decade of crisis.
‘Better late than never’
The World Health Organization said on Thursday that two new variants of the coronavirus are present in Libya, which recently detected around 1,000 new infections daily.
No lockdown measure is currently in place, and if masks are mandatory in public places, the measure is widely flouted.
“I’m sorry the vaccine arrived late in Libya after thousands of people were infected. But better late than never, ”store owner Ali al-Hadi told Reuters news agency, adding that his wife had been sick with COVID-19 and had recovered.
Many Libyans fear the vaccination campaign may be marred by political infighting or favoritism after years of unrest.
“We hope the health ministry will avoid political conflicts so that services can reach patients,” housewife Khawla Muhammad, 33, said.