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Libya Reports 1st Coronavirus Death, Lebanon Evacuates European Nationals

Libya Reports 1st Coronavirus Death, Lebanon Evacuates European Nationals

Friday, 3 April, 2020 - 18:15
Libyans wearing protective face masks queue in front of a bank in the centre of the capital Tripoli amid the coronavirus pandemic. (AFP)
Asharq Al-Awsat

Libya reported in Friday its first casualty from the new coronavirus. Health authorities said an 85-year-old woman was confirmed to have had COVID-19 on examination after her death, without giving further details.

The Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), which controls the west of the country, has officially recorded 10 cases of the virus in Libya.

No cases have been declared in the south and east, which are largely under the control of a rival administration supported by the Libyan National Army, commanded by Khalifa Haftar.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees warned Friday that the health system in Libya, the scene of a year of fighting for control of Tripoli, was already on the verge of collapse.

"The ongoing conflict has severely impacted the country's health system and medical services, which have limited financial resources and face shortages of basic equipment and medicines," UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch said.

He told a press briefing in Geneva that several hospitals near fighting zones south of the capital had been damaged or closed.

Baloch called for the release of hundreds of asylum seekers and refugees held by Libyan authorities in detention centers.

They are "particularly vulnerable and exposed, given often poor sanitation facilities, limited health services and overcrowded conditions", the UNHCR spokesman said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres renewed on Friday his call for a global ceasefire, urging the LNA and GNA to immediately halt hostilities to allow the coronavirus threat to be addressed.

Lebanon evacuates Euroeans

In Lebanon, which has seen 508 infected and 17 deaths from COVID-19, the French Embassy said it evacuated French and European nationals who had been unable to leave as the Beirut airport shut down on March 18.

An airport official, speaking on condition of anonymity under regulations, said 149 people were flown out, and that several Doctors Without Borders specialists were on board the flight.

France has evacuated 130,000 French citizens from countries around the world since mid-March.

In the West Bank, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas extended the state of emergency for another month as 22 new cases were announced Friday, bringing the total number of patients in the Palestinian territory to 181.

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