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Battles Rage Amid More Coronavirus Cases in Libya

Battles Rage Amid More Coronavirus Cases in Libya

Sunday, 29 March, 2020 - 18:00
FILE PHOTO: Members of Red Crescent spray disinfectants, as part of precautionary measures against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at government offices in Misrata, Libya, March 21, 2020. REUTERS/Ayman Al-Sahili/File Photo

Artillery blasts shook Libya's capital Tripoli on Sunday as fighting raged even as the country confirmed five more cases of the COVID-19 disease for a total of eight.

The National Center for Disease Control said the new coronavirus cases were in the northwestern city of Misrata, held by the Government of National Accord (GNA) led by Fayez al-Sarraj.

Libya is poorly placed to withstand any epidemic.

The current phase of warfare began last year when Khalifa Haftar's Libyan National Army (LNA) began an offensive to liberate Tripoli from militias backing Sarraj.

The United Nations has urged warring parties to stop fighting so the overstretched health system can prepare for the coronavirus pandemic.

Cycles of conflict have destroyed much of Libya's infrastructure and a financial crisis has stopped salaries to many medics.

The conflict escalated last week when pro-GNA fighters mounted assaults on several fronts with clashes, bombardment and airstrikes.

Loud blasts could be heard in central Tripoli on Sunday from fighting in the south of the city, one of the fiercest front lines, witnesses said.

The World Health Organization representative in the East Mediterranean warned Friday of the repercussions of a potential spread of the coronavirus in the region's war-torn countries.

"The emergence of the virus in much more vulnerable countries with fragile health systems in the region, including Syria and Libya, is of special concern," said WHO East Mediterranean Office Director Ahmed Al Mandhari.

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