World Bank fury as Lebanon MPs jump vaccine queue

World Bank fury as Lebanon MPs jump vaccine queue
Abdul Rahman Bizri, head of Lebanon's COVID-19 vaccination committee, talks during a press conference in Sidon, Lebanon February 23, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 23 February 2021

World Bank fury as Lebanon MPs jump vaccine queue

World Bank fury as Lebanon MPs jump vaccine queue
  • $34m aid at risk after presidential entourage ‘given jab in secret’

BEIRUT: Lebanese politicians have been accused of jumping the queue for the coronavirus vaccine, with the World Bank on Tuesday joining a chorus of condemnation and threatening to suspend its multi-million-dollar backing for the country’s vaccination drive.

The controversy erupted after some MPs secretly received the COVID-19 jab in the parliament building — despite not being in priority groups.

Allegations of favoritism mounted after it was revealed President Michel Aoun and his wife were inoculated last Friday by a medical team sent to the Baabda Palace.

The claims added to widespread frustration among Lebanese over delays and breaches of the vaccination campaign.

World Bank regional director Saroj Kumar Jha tweeted that if the allegations were shown to be true, “it would be a breach of the national plan.”

He warned that the bank may suspend financing for vaccines and support for the country’s coronavirus response.

“I appeal to all, I mean all, regardless of your position, to please register and wait for your turn,” Jha added.

The World Bank’s reallocation of $34 million has enabled Lebanon to receive its first two batches of about 60,000 Pfizer-BioNTech doses this month. The bank had said it would monitor the vaccine rollout and warned against favoritism.

A number of MPs are believed to have received the vaccine inside the parliament building in breach of an established plan that requires individuals to register through a dedicated platform and then wait for a hospital appointment.

The first stage of vaccination rollout, which entered its 10th day on Tuesday, includes doctors, nurses and paramedics treating virus patients, as well as those over 75 years of age.

The MPs’ breach sparked a furious public response on social media under the hashtag #NoWasta (no favoritism).

Dr. Abdul Rahman Bizri, head of the National Committee for the Administration of the Coronavirus Vaccine, threatened to resign in protest at the breach, but later said he would wait on an official explanation by Wednesday.

Less than two hours later, information was leaked to local media that Aoun, along with his wife and 16 people from his presidential team, was given the vaccine last Friday.

Jha tweeted: “This is not in line with the national plan agreed with (the) World Bank, and we would record it (as a) breach of terms and conditions agreed with us for fair and equitable vaccination. Everyone has to register and wait their turn.”

A leaked list of MPs who secretly received the vaccine showed that many were not in the priority groups.

Among politicians who sought to justify receiving the jab, Anis Nassar said he had registered through the platform and received a phone call from parliament.

“I was not aware of any of violation, and if a violation has taken place, I apologize profusely. Despite that I am not responsible for what happened.”

Parliament Secretary-General Adnan Daher claimed that the vaccinations were supervised by a team from the Ministry of Health and the Lebanese Red Cross.

He claimed the aim was to “help hospitals avoid overcrowding.”

However, the Red Cross said that it had no supervisory or operational role in the vaccination campaign.

“Our teams are present in all vaccination centers exclusively to assist or aid citizens of the age group 75 and over in the event of an emergency,” it explained.

Bizri later told a press conference: “What happened is a terrible thing and must be explained. The World Bank has said there will be consequences. The Ministry of Health committed this mistake and must explain it.”

He added: “This is discrimination.”

Doctors’ Syndicate chief Sharaf Abu Sharaf said that the vaccination rollout “has been slow, chaotic and far from transparent.”

He warned that without an improvement in the rollout, Lebanon “faces a great disaster.”

“We must accelerate the vaccination plan to reach herd immunity,” Abu Sharaf said.


Jordan ministers sacked for virus rules breach

Jordan ministers sacked for virus rules breach
Updated 5 min 9 sec ago

Jordan ministers sacked for virus rules breach

Jordan ministers sacked for virus rules breach
  • The pair were asked to step down by Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh
  • The Jordanian news website Ammon claimed Mobaideen and Talhuni had attended a dinner in a restaurant in Amman with a total of nine people

AMMAN: Jordan’s interior and justice ministers were sacked Sunday for breaching health regulations to stem the spread of coronavirus, with their replacements named by royal decree.
The pair were asked to step down by Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh, a move immediately endorsed by King Abdullah II, according to a statement from the royal palace.
They are accused, according to a government source, of “having violated the emergency law” put in place to curb Covid-19.
The Jordanian news website Ammon claimed interior minister Samir Mobaideen and justice minister Bassam Talhuni had attended a dinner in a restaurant in Amman with a total of nine people, when the law allowed a maximum of six.
Tawfiq Krishan, deputy prime minister and in charge of local administration, was appointed as the new interior minister.
Ahmed Ziyadat, State Secretary for Legal Affairs, was named as justice minister.
Following a surge in virus cases, Jordan toughened this week its Covid-19 restrictions, returning to rules imposed in March last year, and which were only eased last month.
Jordan, which began vaccinations last month, has officially recorded more than 386,000 novel coronavirus cases and 4,675 deaths out of a population of 10.5 million people.


Turkey summons Iran ambassador over accusations Ankara is violating Iraqi sovereignty: Al Arabiya

Turkey summons Iran ambassador over accusations Ankara is violating Iraqi sovereignty: Al Arabiya
Updated 28 February 2021

Turkey summons Iran ambassador over accusations Ankara is violating Iraqi sovereignty: Al Arabiya

Turkey summons Iran ambassador over accusations Ankara is violating Iraqi sovereignty: Al Arabiya

CAIRO: Turkey has summoned the Iranian ambassador over accusations by Tehran that Ankara is violating Iraqi sovereignty, Al Arabiya TV reported Sunday. 

Turkey said it expects from Tehran to stand by Ankara in “combating terrorism”. 

Last week, Iran summoned the Turkish ambassador in Tehran over comments made by Turkish officials accusing Iran of destabilizing the region by getting involved in Iraq and Syria. 


Iran health ministry says virus deaths cross 60,000 mark

Iran health ministry says virus deaths cross 60,000 mark
Updated 28 February 2021

Iran health ministry says virus deaths cross 60,000 mark

Iran health ministry says virus deaths cross 60,000 mark

Iran's health ministry said the country's coronavirus fatalities broke the 60,000 mark on Sunday, as the Islamic republic battles the Middle East's worst outbreak of the illness.
"Sadly in the past 24 hours, 93 people lost their lives to Covid-19, and total deaths from this disease reached 60,073," health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said in a televised address.
Iran has registered a total of 1,631,169 infections, according to the ministry.


Russian helicopter makes emergency landing in Syria

Russian helicopter makes emergency landing in Syria
Updated 28 February 2021

Russian helicopter makes emergency landing in Syria

Russian helicopter makes emergency landing in Syria
  • Russian Defense Ministry said the helicopter was not fired at

AMMAN/MOSCOW: A Russian Mi-35 helicopter made an emergency landing due to technical problems during a flight over Syria’s northern Hasaka province, state agencies quoted Russia’s Defense Ministry as saying on Sunday.
“The crew was quickly evacuated to the airfield. There is no threat to lives of the pilots,” the RIA news agency cited a Defense Ministry statement as saying.
The helicopter was not fired at, it added.
Syrian state media said earlier there were reports of a Russian helicopter crash in northeast Syria that killed the pilot.
It said the site of the crash was in Hasaka province, near Tal Tamr close to a Russian base.


Iranian police official dismissed over protests in Baluchestan Province

Iranian police official dismissed over protests in Baluchestan Province
Updated 28 February 2021

Iranian police official dismissed over protests in Baluchestan Province

Iranian police official dismissed over protests in Baluchestan Province

CAIRO: The Iranian parliament is reportedly sending a delegation to investigate alleged use of excessive force by government forces against protesters in the southeast Baluchistan region.

Iranian media reports said the delegation will investigate what has been described as “bloody” violence after unrest gripped the remote province following fatal border shootings.

The reports also said that the Iranian police force deputy in the region was dismissed over the violence.