As violence continues to grip Libya, the threat of a devastating COVID-19 outbreak grows.
The Libyan Center for Disease Control announced on April 5 a new case of the novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 18, including one death and one recovery.
“The reference laboratory of the center received 31 samples, 1 of which was positive (infected) and 30 negatives (uninfected),” the center, affiliated with the Government of National Accord (GNA), said in a statement.
The GNA announced on April 4 that it had finished preparing a COVID-19 treatment site the capital, Tripoli.
Libya’s Ministry of Health, in a statement on its Facebook page, said the COVID-19 treatment facility is a recently restored section of Tripoli’s government-owned El-Ayoun Hospital. The site is comprised of four floors and has a capacity of 50 beds.
As conflict ensues south of the capital between Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) and the GNA, however, the effectiveness of the Tripoli treatment site in the fight against COVID-19 remains to be seen.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) warned on April 3 of a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Libya if the coronavirus threat is not contained and the current conflict continues.
“The humanitarian crisis in Libya is exacerbated by the intensification of the conflict and the risk of an outbreak of the new coronavirus…which now brings new threats,” warned the UNHCR office in a statement, according to Xinhua news agency.
“The risk posed by COVID-19, if it is not contained alongside the current conflict, could create a humanitarian catastrophe in Libya,” the statement continued, quoting the head of the UNHCR mission in Libya, Jean-Paul Cavalieri.
The UN called for an immediate implementation of a “humanitarian truce” in Libya last month, but both sides of the conflict are still launching mutual attacks around the capital, and Turkish intervention in favor of the GNA exacerbates the violent flare-ups.
Intense GNA bombardment shook Tripoli on March 25 hours after Libya reported its first case of COVID-19 and despite the UN’s calls for a ceasefire.
The International Crisis Group reported that efforts to secure a ceasefire in Libya were no longer receiving high-level attention due to the COVID-19 epidemic.
As of April 5, the number of coronavirus cases worldwide has exceeded 1.2 million, including more than 66,000 deaths and approximately 254,000 recoveries.