Lebanon MPs who jumped vaccine queue defend their actions

Lebanon MPs who jumped vaccine queue defend their actions
Health care workers wait to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine during a coronavirus vaccination campaign at Lebanese American University Medical Center-Rizk Hospital in Beirut, Lebanon. (Reuters)
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Updated 25 February 2021

Lebanon MPs who jumped vaccine queue defend their actions

Lebanon MPs who jumped vaccine queue defend their actions
  • World Bank threatens to suspend its backing for the country’s vaccination drive

BEIRUT: Lebanese lawmakers who allegedly jumped the queue and received the first shot of the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine on Tuesday are feeling pressure to defend their actions.

Eleven politicians, some of them younger than 75 years old, even had their vaccines “delivered” to Parliament.

A spokesman for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the organization in charge of monitoring the country’s vaccination plan, “was unaware that President Michel Aoun, his wife and his work team had received the vaccine on Friday, which is a violation to the terms of the national plan.”

As a result, the ethics officer of Lebanon’s vaccination committee, Dr. Talia Arawi, resigned on Wednesday.

It also prompted representatives from the World Bank, the Lebanese Health Ministry, the country’s COVID-19 vaccination committee and other commissions to meet and discuss the breach within the national vaccination plan. 

The World Bank, represented by its Beirut-based office, said it “will continue supporting Lebanon, but with respect to priority groups. If necessary, it is ready to suspend the financing for vaccines.”

Lawmakers who received the vaccine early were on the defensive Wednesday.

“How are lawmakers at fault?” Elie Ferzli, the Parliament's deputy speaker, asked. “Twenty-five lawmakers have been infected in parliament so far, along with 25 other employees. The latest infections occurred during the Procurement Law Committee’s meeting.”

Ferzli said he and other officials registered on the platform, based on the ministry’s request. Of those who registered, 27 lawmakers received approval for the vaccine, because they were 70 or older. Sixteen said they were inoculated in hospitals while the other 11 received the vaccine in Parliament.

Ferzli cited an American University of Beirut (AUB) report that said more than 50 percent of those who have received the vaccine did not register on the national platform.

He accused World Bank regional director Saroj Kumar Jha of “playing a political role”. He said: “This reflects the lack of ethics that a World Bank representative should have. If this is how the bank is planning to deal with us in financing the vaccination plan, forget about the vaccines.”

Ferzli also attacked activists on social media who criticized the lawmakers, describing them as “ridiculous” and “electronic flies.”

Ghazi Zaiter, a politician and former minister, who was summoned for questioning by the former judge leading the probe into the Beirut port explosion, also tried to defend himself. He took to social media, claiming that “he is more Lebanese than others, which gives him the right to the vaccine before the others.”

Zaiter was heavily criticized, with some even calling on him to leave the country. Using a hashtag that was trending on Twitter, online activists said he “considers himself above the law and citizens.”

The AUB called on the ministry to clarify and apologize for the alleged breach of the vaccination plan. It also suggested more transparency when it comes to publishing criteria for those who are eligible for the vaccine, the number of inoculated people in each center, who should not be included in the priority groups and why.

The country’s vaccination campaign started 11 days ago. Yet half of the 12,000 doctors who are members of the medical association have not been vaccinated, nor have 55 percent of the nursing staff.


Deals signed to make coronavirus vaccine in Egypt

Deals signed to make coronavirus vaccine in Egypt
Updated 57 min 33 sec ago

Deals signed to make coronavirus vaccine in Egypt

Deals signed to make coronavirus vaccine in Egypt
  • The plan is to take advantage of the vaccine developed by the Chinese company Sinovac
  • Sinovac will provide technical support and assistance to Vacsera in building and equipping manufacturing facilities to meet the required standards

CAIRO: Two agreements have been signed between the Egyptian Holding Company for Biological Products and Vaccines (Vacsera), and the Chinese company Sinovac Biotech for biopharmaceuticals, to manufacture the coronavirus vaccine in Egypt.
The signing of the agreements comes as part of efforts to achieve technical cooperation in this vital field.
The plan is to take advantage of the vaccine developed by the Chinese company Sinovac, a leader in research, development, production and marketing in pharmaceutical preparations, and exchange experiences to support Vacsera, a specialist in the manufacture of vaccines in Egypt.
The move is expected to contribute to limiting the spread of the virus.
Both agreements were signed by Heba Wali, Vacsera head and Sinovac Biotech vice president.
The first agreement concerns the manufacturing technology for the coronavirus vaccine, Egyptian Health Minister Hala Zayed said.
Under this deal, the Chinese company Sinovac gives Vacsera a limited license to use manufacturing technology and technical knowledge for the purpose of manufacturing the local final product of the COVID-19 vaccine, in Vecsera’s manufacturing sites inside Egypt — using the ready-made product of the vaccine provided by Sinovac.
This agreement also stipulates that the Chinese company will provide Vacsera with all technical information related to the vaccine and provide technical assistance.
It includes examining the manufacturing places of Vacsera, and manufacturing the local final product using the ready-made product provided by Sinovac.
This is in addition to testing the local end-product, manufacturing methods and technical processes used, as well as equipment, tools or machines, repair and maintenance of Vacsera’s manufacturing facilities.
Quality management and quality control are also part of this process.
The second agreement relates to the local manufacture of the COVID-19 vaccine, Zayed said.
It provides for the Chinese company, Sinovac, to grant a permit to Vacsera to refill, package and manufacture the local final product of the COVID-19 vaccine in Vacsera’s own facilities.
It provides for Vacsera obtaining regulatory approvals, manufacturing technology and technical knowledge for the use of the ready-to-fill product provided by Sinovac, Zayed added.
The agreement stipulates that Vacsera will equip its current facilities or construct, build and equip new facilities to serve as manufacturing facilities.
An effective quality-management system will be set up for each step of production.
It enables the local manufacturer to meet the requirements, specifications and standards of operating procedures of Sinovac.
Sinovac will provide technical support and assistance to Vacsera in building and equipping manufacturing facilities to meet the required standards.
The agreement also stipulates that Sinovac is ready, at the request of Vacsera, to provide the necessary training for Vacsera employees in manufacturing facilities in Egypt or at its own facilities in Beijing, regarding final packaging and final quality-control operations.


Ramadan nights see Israeli police and Palestinians face off in Jerusalem

Ramadan nights see Israeli police and Palestinians face off in Jerusalem
Updated 22 April 2021

Ramadan nights see Israeli police and Palestinians face off in Jerusalem

Ramadan nights see Israeli police and Palestinians face off in Jerusalem
  • Palestinians have clashed with Israeli police amid dispute over gatherings at Damascus Gate after iftar
  • Israeli police fired stun grenades and sprayed foul-smelling skunk water to disperse Palestinians, who discharged fireworks

JERUSALEM: Nightly clashes and other violent incidents between Palestinians and Israelis in Jerusalem during Ramadan have laid bare simmering tensions in the holy city.
Palestinians have clashed with Israeli police amid a dispute over evening gatherings at Damascus Gate after iftar, the breaking of the daytime fast during the Muslim holy month.
Meanwhile, a video on social media app TikTok purporting to show a Palestinian slapping an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man on Jerusalem’s light rail train has drawn protests by Israelis and calls by some right-wing politicians for tougher police action.
The incidents, which followed the start of Ramadan on April 13, threaten to break a sustained period of relative quiet in a contested city at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Palestinians say police have tried to prevent them from holding their usual Ramadan evening gatherings outside Damascus Gate, a historic landmark on the north side of Jerusalem’s walled Old City.
Israeli police have fired stun grenades and sprayed foul-smelling skunk water to disperse the Palestinians, who in turn have discharged fireworks toward them.
“Palestinians love to relax in this area after evening prayers at Al-Aqsa Mosque, but the occupation (Israel) doesn’t like it. It’s a matter of sovereignty,” said Jerusalem resident Mohammad Abu Al-Homus, pointing to metal barricades thrown up by police in the area outside Damascus Gate in recent weeks.
Israel’s police have not said why they erected the barriers, and a spokesman did not immediately respond to Reuters’ repeated requests for comment.
In statements issued over the past week, the police said they had arrested several Palestinians for throwing stones and attacking officers.
There have also been some street skirmishes between Palestinian and Israeli civilians. Police arrested four people in one such fight on Jaffa Road in downtown Jerusalem on Wednesday night, Israeli media reported.
“Jews won’t be scared to walk around Jerusalem!” said a leaflet distributed on WhatsApp calling for Jewish protests at Damascus Gate on Thursday night.
Israel claims all of Jerusalem, including the eastern sector captured in the 1967 Middle East war, as its capital.
Palestinians seek to make East Jerusalem, including its Muslim, Christian and Jewish holy sites, capital of a future state.


Jordan releases 16 defendants in ‘sedition’ case

Updated 22 April 2021

Jordan releases 16 defendants in ‘sedition’ case

Jordan releases 16 defendants in ‘sedition’ case
  • Bassem Awadallah and Sharif Hassan bin Zaid were not among those released

LONDON: Jordan announced on Thursday that it had released 16 defendants involved in a sedition case.
Several people have been arrested since the beginning of April following recent events that threatened to undermine the kingdom’s stability.
More to follow...


Lebanese president urges calm after judicial dispute

Lebanese president urges calm after judicial dispute
Updated 22 April 2021

Lebanese president urges calm after judicial dispute

Lebanese president urges calm after judicial dispute
  • Lebanese President warns against property destruction after removing judge from a financial corruption probe
  • Judge Aoun stormed the offices of a foreign exchange dealer, took folders and computers out

BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Aoun warned against the destruction of property on Thursday after removing a judge from a financial corruption probe last week prompted her and her supporters to storm a currency exchange bureau.
Aoun made the remarks in a statement after a security meeting that included caretaker prime minister Hassan Diab, the interior minister and other officials.
On Wednesday, judge Ghada Aoun and others had stormed the offices of a foreign exchange dealer in defiance of her removal from the investigation, with some of them breaking down doors, local media reported.
It was the second such attempt to enter the bureau by judge Aoun, who is not directly related to the president and whose supporters appeared largely to back President Aoun’s party.
Judge Aoun, chief prosecutor of the Mount Lebanon region, took folders and computers out of the building with her, the state news agency reported.
Security forces deployed to the scene.
Aoun, who had also sought to question central bank chief Riad Salameh, has objected to her removal from financial crimes cases last week by Lebanese public prosecutor Ghassan Oueidat.
The row has spilled out into the streets and all over local media, with critics saying it laid bare the political grip on the judiciary in a country battered by a financial crisis rooted in graft and debt.
The collapse has sunk the currency, paralyzed banks and trapped savers out of their deposits.


Pope Francis confirms intention to visit Lebanon

Pope Francis confirms intention to visit Lebanon
Updated 22 April 2021

Pope Francis confirms intention to visit Lebanon

Pope Francis confirms intention to visit Lebanon
  • Spokesman: Pontiff ‘reiterated his closeness to the Lebanese people’
  • Pope met with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri in the Vatican

ROME: During a private audience in the Vatican with Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri, Pope Francis on Thursday confirmed that he wants to visit the country as soon as possible.
Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni told a press briefing attended by Arab News that the pope “reiterated his closeness to the Lebanese people, who live in a time of great difficulty and uncertainty.”
Bruni said the pope confirmed to Hariri his desire to visit Lebanon “as soon as the conditions will allow it,” and expressed his wish that the country, “with the help of the international community,” will once again be a land of “coexistence and pluralism.”
Pope Francis announced his intention to visit Lebanon on his return flight from Iraq last month.
Hariri was tasked nine months ago with forming a government that is supposed to allow Lebanon to negotiate with the West long-awaited financial aid to overcome the country’s economic crisis.
A source in the Vatican told Arab News that Hariri asked the pope to intercede with Lebanese President Michel Aoun to help him form a new government.
Cardinal Bechara Rai, the Maronite patriarch of Lebanon, has called for an international conference to save the country from financial collapse.
Hariri also met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, and with Archbishop Paul Gallagher, who is in charge of its relations with states.
On Thursday night, Hariri is expected to meet with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio.