Libya’s interim prime minister on Sunday announced the arrival of the first batch of vaccines against Covid-19, as the war-torn country’s crumbling health system struggles against a mounting caseload.
“Thanks to God, we have managed to import the first batch of coronavirus vaccines,” Abdul Hamid Dbeibah tweeted, saying further doses were on the way.
“I call on the Libyan people to sign up via the vaccine portal,” he added, referring to a website launched by the North African country’s authorities in early March ahead of the first deliveries.
The health ministry said in a statement that just over 100,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V jab had arrived in Tripoli.
Libyan authorities have reported over 160,000 cases of the coronavirus among its seven million population, with 2,737 dead.
The country has been ravaged by a decade of violence since the toppling of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a 2011 revolt, leaving its health sector in a pitiful state despite its vast oil wealth.
The World Health Organization said on Thursday that two new variants of the coronavirus are present in Libya.
The country has registered around 1,000 new cases per day in recent weeks, but the difficulty of obtaining a test means that the real numbers may be far higher.
Hospitals are often overcrowded and lacking in resources.
No lockdown measures are currently in place, and while masks are obligatory in public places, the measure is widely flouted.
Following an October ceasefire between warring powers in the east and west of the country, a new transitional government took office last month, with the aim of unifying Libya’s divided institutions and organising December elections.
Shortly before winning a vote of confidence, Dbeibah had vowed that access to coronavirus vaccines would be a priority for his administration.