COVID-19 slowing in Lebanon with 600 new cases, 21 deaths

The total number of cases since the virus was first detected in the country in February last year rose to 531,834

  
Joseph al-Hajj, an 80-year-old Lebanese musician, receives a shot of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at Hotel Dieu hospital in Beirut, Lebanon April 13, 2021. Picture taken April 13, 2021. REUTERS Image used for illustrative purpose

Joseph al-Hajj, an 80-year-old Lebanese musician, receives a shot of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at Hotel Dieu hospital in Beirut, Lebanon April 13, 2021. Picture taken April 13, 2021. REUTERS Image used for illustrative purpose

Emma Freiha

BEIRUT: Lebanon registered 21 more coronavirus deaths and 600 new cases over the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said Friday, as the Caretaker Health Minister revealed hugely ambitious plans to boost the number of COVID-19 vaccinations taking place to 200,000 a week from next month.

Vowing to deliver nearly six times more jabs a week than the current pace, Hamad Hasan said during a meeting to address the ministry's vaccine campaign that the arrival of 2 million vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech in June and July would accomodate the step up.

Since the rollout began in February, the campaign has been criticized for its slow pace with only around 35-40,000 vaccines being administered weekly, despite the pressing need for immunity after the country's health system quickly deteriorated following an alarming surge in coronavirus cases at the start of the year.

In response, government health officials and those involved with the vaccine program have blamed the lack of available vaccines for the sluggish movement.

Lebanon is also expecting an influx of 190,000 Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines this month, the Health Ministry has said previously, but there have been worldwide delays in the delivery of the vaccine.

Friday's coronavirus cases were detected among 14,359 tests, with only 13 cases found among travelers arriving from abroad. The average positivity rate throughout the last two weeks dropped to 9.1 percent.

The total number of cases since the virus was first detected in the country in February last year rose to 531,834, according to figures released by the Health Ministry. The total number of fatalities now stands at 7,436.

The statistics provided by the Health Ministry also show that 930 patients are currently hospitalized for COVID-19 and related complications, with 472 in the ICU and 160 requiring ventilators.

The Health Ministry also reported that 8,195 first-stage jabs and 1,349 second-round vaccinations were administered in the past 24 hours, bringing the cumulative number of inoculations since the Feb. 14 onset to 329,877 first-stage and 188,057 second-stage jabs so far.

Hasan also commented on the huge number of calls received daily by the Ministry's vaccine hotline number 1214, and the plan to add the crisis cell number for hospital admission, 01832700 for vaccine enquires to offload pressure on number 1214.

"It was found that the hotline 1214 received more than 2,000 calls per day to 24 call handlers sharing day and night shifts from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m.," he said.

There have been many complaints of the line being constantly engaged with citizens struggling to receive an answer.

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