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Libya's UN-recognised government imposes curfew over coronavirus fears

Libya has no confirmed cases of the Covid-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 March, 2020

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Both of Libya's rival governments have now imposed night-time curfews to ward off the novel coronavirus.
Libya's UN-recognised government declared a night-time curfew and closure of public spaces starting Sunday in a bid to control the spread of the novel coronavirus as fighting continued south of the capital.

The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) said in a statement on Saturday that the curfew would begin at 6:00 pm and end at 6:00 am. (1600-0400 GMT).

It also ordered the closure of restaurants, cafes and party halls and banned funeral and wedding ceremonies.

The rival eastern government imposed its own night-time curfew on Thursday.

Libya is divided between forces loyal to the GNA and those of Khalifa Haftar, a rogue military commander who backs a rival administration in the country's east.

While Libya has not recorded any cases of the Covid-19 disease caused by the new coronavirus, experts fear an outbreak could be catastrophic due to the country's dilapidated health system.

The Tripoli-based government has warned that foreign mercenaries fighting alongside Haftar's forces could bring the deadly virus to the country.

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United Nations chief Antonio Guterres on Saturday urged both GNA and Haftar forces to observe a truce in their fighting in and around Tripoli.

"Given the already dire humanitarian situation in Libya and the possible impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Secretary-General calls on the parties to join forces to address the threat and to ensure unhindered access of humanitarian aid throughout the country," a statement said.

A fragile truce entered into force on January 12, but fighting has continued with each side blaming the other for starting it.

Earlier this week, both sides of the conflict welcomed callsf or a humanitarian pause in the fighting made by the UN and several countries, although the Tripoli-based government said it reserved "the right to respond to daily assaults targeting civilians and public facilities".

Guterres hopes the "positive" responses by the warring sides in Libya "will be translated into an immediate and unconditional cessation of hostilities... [and] a lasting ceasefire", the UN statement said.

Since April last year the fighting has left more than 1,000 people dead and around 150,000 displaced.

Five women were killed on Wednesday in strikes carried out by pro-Haftar forces, according to the GNA, while on Saturday sporadic bombardment could be heard from the centre of Tripoli.

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