New Libya PM Dbeibah slams outgoing government’s handling of coronavirus crisis

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Libya’s interim prime minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah criticized on Saturday the outgoing government’s management of the coronavirus outbreak and the delayed delivery of vaccines, promising to tackle the crisis.

“The people are very unhappy with the measures taken... against this illness,” said Dbeibah in the capital Tripoli at the opening of a national conference on managing the health crisis.

Dbeibah was named interim premier under a UN-sponsored transitional political process and is set to be sworn in on Monday after parliament approved his proposed cabinet this week.

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His government is tasked with unifying the country’s divided institutions after a decade of conflict and ensuring a transition toward elections scheduled for December.

Libya has been torn apart by civil war since former President Muammar Gaddafi was toppled and killed in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011.

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The prolonged instability has left Libya’s infrastructure derelict, its economy in tatters and public services wretched, including the health system.

Dbeibah said vigilance in the face of the health crisis had slipped and pledged to implement new measures.

“At the beginning, the awareness campaign was good, but we apparently forgot that we are living in the middle of a pandemic,” the 61-year-old premier said.

He added that there would be a “new campaign with a new spirit” and that wearing “masks will again be compulsory.”

Acquiring vaccine doses is “at the top of the government’s priorities,” he said.

“We have spent enormous amounts of money and we still don’t have vaccines. We must have vaccines as soon as possible, no matter the cost. We are very behind.”

On Thursday, Dbeibah said he was unhappy with the management of budgets for fighting the coronavirus outbreak.

His predecessor, Fayez al-Sarraj, in February allocated 600 million dinars (around $133 million) for vaccines and isolation centers.

But the centers are now starting to reach capacity, with the main public hospital in second city Benghazi saying on Monday it was no longer able to accept new patients.

Libya, home to seven million people, has officially reported 143,671 coronavirus cases and 2,348 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

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