Middle East, Africa, Latest on coronavirus outbreak

Libya confirms 8 coronavirus cases: UN

Ongoing clashes and security situation restricting medical aid, UN says

Peter Kenny   | 31.03.2020
Libya confirms 8 coronavirus cases: UN


Libya is at a high risk for the spread of coronavirus after eight cases were confirmed in the conflict-hit nation, the UN said Tuesday.

Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said at a news briefing that the war-stricken country also has 112 suspected cases of the novel coronavirus.

"Ongoing clashes, but also COVID-19 restriction measures, are hampering humanitarian access and the free movement of medical and other humanitarian personnel and impacting humanitarian assistance across the country,” said Laerke.

Earlier, the UN Refugee Agency, detailed a series of measures it is taking in its field operations to help respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency and prevent its further spread.

“I am deeply concerned at this unprecedented pandemic and its impact on refugees and their host communities. The COVID-19 crisis has already had significant consequences for our operations, forcing us to adjust the way we work rapidly,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, in a statement.

Since the ouster of late ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, two seats of power have emerged in Libya: warlord Haftar in eastern Libya supported mainly by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, and the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli, which enjoys the UN and international recognition.

Libya's legitimate government has been under attack by Haftar's forces since last April and more than 1,000 people have been killed in the violence.

Laerke said that constraints on deliveries related to the pandemic are not only due to curfews and limitations on movement imposed by the Libyan authorities, but also precautionary measures taken by humanitarian agencies to avoid transmission.

The OCHA spokesman said that, for example, UN agencies have reported being unable to dispatch trucks to deliver assistance over long distances due to the curfews.

Negotiations are ongoing with the relevant authorities to issue exemptions for humanitarian movements and activities so that assistance is delivered during this critical time, said Laerke.

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