Malta will supply Libya with 40,000 COVID-19 vaccines and an unspecified number of test kits to help the war-ravaged North African country fight the pandemic, Times of Malta can reveal.

The consignment will be sent to Tripoli on a government-chartered flight and follows a donation of test kits to Tunisia last week, according to sources close to the Health Ministry.

With a population of nearly seven million, Libya told the World Health Organisation it has had 271,981 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 3,781 deaths from the virus since January 2020. As of Monday, only 764,233 vaccine doses had been administered.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last week urged governments not to give booster doses until more countries, especially the poorer ones, vaccinated more of their people. He noted that more than 80%of the vaccination doses have gone to high- and upper-middle income countries, even though they account for less than half of the world’s population.

The world’s most vulnerable people remain unprotected

“I understand the concern of all governments to protect their people from the Delta variant. But we cannot accept countries that have already used most of the global supply of vaccines using even more of it while the world’s most vulnerable people remain unprotected,” he said.

Some countries have already announced plans to start administering booster doses, including Malta, which has said it will be giving a third dose to the elderly living in care homes and those with a compromised immune system, starting mid-September.

During a visit to Libya in April, Prime Minister Robert Abela pledged to help the country return to normality. The promise came in the context of the resumption of direct flights between the two countries, the reopening of Malta’s embassy in Tripoli and the setting up of a consulate in Benghazi.

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