Libya’s PM “Not Serious” About Fighting COVID-19

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In an outright violation of the recently announced curfew attempting to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the Libyan Prime Minister, Abdel-Hamid Dbaiba held festivities in the ancient city of Leptis Magna, in modern-day Al-Khums, 81 miles from Tripoli.

In a concert-like event, aerial scenes showed laser lights, large screens, and VIP seats in the theatre. The event was sponsored by the Ministry of Youth.

The International Youth Day festival was broadcast live on Thursday evening, showing a full theatre and a total lack of COVID-19 preventive measures.

Dbaiba took office in March, and heads the UN-brokered Government of National Unity (GNU), which is set to lead the country to elections after a decade-long conflict over power.

An event supervisor inside the theatre said “white banners with several names of Libyan cities written in black were distributed to the audience in a desperate attempt by the government to show that the festival reflects the unity of the whole country.”

“Your life is not easy,” Dbaiba said during his speech to attendees, as they cheered asking for “loans, marriage, and jobs.”

With his face mask placed on his wrist the Prime Minister announced the allocation of one billion dinars to support marriages, and 1.7 billion dinars to support youth-centred projects.

The government has not yet been granted a budget by Parliament, which is still debating the estimated 111 billion Libyan dinar proposal.

Two weeks ago, the government declared a partial curfew as the country was recording a surge of new COVID-19 cases. Libya currently has 69,859 active cases, and has vaccinated 801,568 people.

The Health Ministry reportedly requested an extension of the curfew, due to the instability of the epidemiological situation. The PM was allegedly the first who did not agree with the curfew implementation.

“Unfortunately, the Prime Minister is not serious about fighting the virus,” a doctor at the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) told Libya Review by telephone.

“What is more worrying is that the healthcare sector in Libya has collapsed, and cannot bear an epidemic outbreak,” the doctor said on condition of anonymity. “It is unreasonable for the PM to be the first to break the laws, and not respect them” he added.

Dbaiba was also seen on Wednesday night at Tripoli’s green square, participating in the lighting of the torch ceremony of the International Youth Day ceremony. Moments later, a torrent of hard criticism poured on online, “How can the government hold such events during the curfew?”

Comments on social media also included complaints about the curfew, resulting in the suspension of work for thousands of young people who depend on their daily wages. Others echoed dire living conditions amid long terms of power cuts in high temperatures.

According to the Statista website, the unemployment rate in Libya in 2020 was 19.39% , with a population of almost 7 million.

Mahmoud Al-Joundi, a taxi driver and father of four, said, “the government imposes the curfew and our life stops, but the Prime Minister holds parties here and there. It’s disappointing, I can not offer all my family needs.”

A source from the Health Ministry anonymously said, “the PM must either comply with the laws and to be a model for the people, or he ends the curfew and doubles his efforts to bring more vaccinations.”

The source confirmed the decision to dismiss Dr. Badr Al-Din Al-Najjar, the Director of the NCDC, without revealing the reasons behind the dismissal.

“Time is critical, and it is not possible to dismiss a person from a sensitive position at this time without logical reasons to mention”, the source continued.

Libya Review has learnt that Dr, Al-Najjar refused to leave office until he receives clarifications from the government.