BEIRUT (AP) – Lebanese health authorities on Saturday launched a COVID-19 vaccination ‘marathon’ to speed up vaccinations across the country, including in areas where turnout has so far been low.
The one-day campaign offered AstraZeneca vaccines at 30 different centers across the country without a prior appointment to encourage people over 30 to come forward. The capital Beirut was not included in the campaign.
A vaccination program that began in February targeted older groups, mainly through registration on a government-run platform and appointments.
As of Saturday afternoon, 7,700 people had been vaccinated in the outbreak.
Images of lines outside centers north of Beirut showed turnout high, especially among foreign workers, many of whom had been reluctant or unable to register on the government-run digital platform. . There were also queues in towns and villages in the east and in the mountains, where participation has so far been inconsistent.
Lebanon has managed to reduce the number of new cases of the virus since the start of the year. The small country, reeling from a crippling economic crisis before the pandemic, is eager to restore its economic activities. The authorities want to open businesses and tourist attractions before the summer season to attract much-needed foreign currency.
So far, more than 700,000 people have been vaccinated in the country of 6 million people. More than 530,000 have been infected with more than 7,700 deaths since February 2020.
Restrictions in place since early 2021 have eased in recent weeks, allowing restaurants, bars and malls to reopen and receive customers until late.
“We are going through many crises and our way of reviving our economic life and restoring certain Lebanese social and cultural norms obliges us to think of better ways to vaccinate over shorter periods,” said Lebanese Minister of Health Hamad Hassan. to a local TV channel.