War-torn Libya's unity govt declares 10-day virus lockdown

Tripoli (AFP) –


Conflict-torn Libya's UN-recognised unity government has announced a 10-day lockdown in the western areas under its control to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The order for a 24-hour curfew -- replacing an existing night-time lockdown -- came late Wednesday from the Government of National Accord (GNA) based in the capital Tripoli and takes effect on Friday.

Per the new measure, people will only be allowed to leave home on foot to go shopping. While supermarkets will be closed, shops and convenience stores will remain open between 7:00 a.m. and noon (0500-1000 GMT), the GNA said in a statement.

The North African country has so far recorded one death and 48 cases of the COVID-19 disease, according to the Tripoli-based Centre for Disease Control.

"The health situation in Libya is not very bad, but is not reassuring either," GNA Health Minister Ahmed bin Omar said at a news conference, urging citizens to respect the containment measures.

The lockdown does not apply to the east of the country controlled by forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar, or much of the south, which is beyond the control of both rival camps.

The oil-rich but poverty-stricken country has suffered almost a decade of conflict since longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi was toppled and killed in a 2011 uprising backed by several Western powers.

Haftar has been trying for a year to seize Tripoli in a conflict that has left hundreds dead, including dozens of civilians, and more than 200,000 displaced.

The forces of Haftar again rained rockets on Tripoli on Tuesday, a day after being ousted by GNA loyalists from a string of strategic towns west of the capital.

Aid groups warn that the humanitarian situation could sharply deteriorate with the further spread of the coronavirus.

In the east of the country, Haftar's forces have imposed a 12-hour curfew between 7:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.