UN urges Libyans to halt fighting, instead battle coronavirus

Warring parties pressed to ‘declare immediate humanitarian cessation of hostilities’ as the contagion spreads.

The United Nations and nine countries called on Libya’s warring parties to cease hostilities to allow health authorities to fight rapidly spreading coronavirus.

A “humanitarian truce” was demanded in a joint statement by the ambassadors of Algeria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as the European Union delegation to Libya and the governments of Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates.


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They called on the warring parties to “declare an immediate, humanitarian cessation of hostilities … to allow local authorities to respond to the unprecedented public health challenge posed by COVID-19”.

The United Nations Support Mission in Libya joined the call, urging all parties “to join forces immediately before it is too late to face this overwhelming, fast-spreading threat”.

Eastern Libya curfew

A day after the announcement on Tuesday, the parallel administration controlling eastern Libya – led by renegade commander Khalifa Haftar – announced it would impose a curfew from 6pm-6am (16:00 – 04:00 GMT), excluding security and emergency personnel, to stop any spread of the coronavirus, its interior ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

War-torn Libya is largely divided between forces backing the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) and those of Haftar, who backs a rival administration in the country’s east. 

To date, no cases of COVID-19 have been reported by either administration, but experts fear an outbreak could be catastrophic because of the country’s degraded health system.

A fragile truce entered into force on January 12, but there have been repeated violations.

After closing schools last week, the GNA said, on Monday, that it was closing land borders and halting flights in the west of the country to keep out the virus.

In the east, borders remain open with Egypt, which has reported 166 cases of COVID-19.

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