Lebanon Records 62 More COVID-19 Deaths, 3,544 New Cases
By Staff, Agencies
Lebanon registered 64 new coronavirus deaths and 3,544 more cases in the last 24 hours, the Health Ministry said Wednesday, as problems with the AstraZeneca jabs look set to hit the already slow pace of the country’s national inoculation campaign.
The cases were detected among 21,267 tests, with only 21 cases found among travelers arriving at Beirut International Airport. The positivity rate throughout the last two weeks stood at 17.6 percent.
The total number of cases since the virus was first detected in the country on Feb. 21, 2020, rose to 426,977, according to figures released by the Health Ministry. The total number of fatalities now stands at 5,536.
The statistics provided by the Health Ministry also show that 2,413 patients are currently hospitalized for COVID-19 and related complications, with 956 in the ICU and 303 requiring ventilators.
The Health Ministry also reported that 3,122 first-stage jabs and 5,705 second-round vaccinations had been administered over the past 24 hours, bringing the cumulative number of inoculations since the national inoculation campaign began to 99,625 first-stage and 27,872 second-stage vaccinations so far.
Lebanon launched its nationwide inoculation campaign on Feb.14, 2021. So far, the country has only administered jabs developed by Pfizer-BionTech, the US-based pharmaceutical group, to front line healthcare workers and people over the age of 75.
The country was set to receive 92,000 jabs of the Oxford-AstraZeneca-developed coronavirus vaccine this week, according to the head of the national coronavirus committee.
Caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hasan told local media Wednesday, however, that the country’s decision regarding the shipment of AstraZeneca jabs is now under review after a number of European countries halted the use of the vaccine over reports of dangerous blood clots in some recipients, though the company and international regulators say there is no evidence the shot is to blame.
“We were expecting the first shipment of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to arrive by mid-March, but the company postponed shipments, which confirms the impediment is not commercial, even from the source itself,” he said.
Hamad also commented on opening up Lebanon’s coronavirus vaccination drive to the private sector, saying that the ministry did not stand in the way of importing and selling the vaccine on the private market, but rather “encourages” it to do so, as long as vaccines are available free of charge for citizens.
Access to the vaccine without payment is “a foregone conclusion,” the minister said.
The purchase and import of Russia’s vaccine, Sputnik V, alongside the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine and India’s jab, which is still under development, will occur through the private sector.
Crucially, the minister noted that the country will start administering jabs to those between 65 and 75 as of next week, inaugurating a new phase with the inclusion of a new age group in Lebanon’s inoculation campaign.
Lebanon is set to fully ease coronavirus restrictions on March 22, opening coffee shops, schools and restaurants as the last reopening stage goes into practice.