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Libya imposes curfew over virus

While fighting continued south of the capital, Libya’s UN-recognized government declared a night-time curfew and closure of public spaces starting Sunday to keep the novel Coronavirus out of areas it controls.

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.

Libya, which has been mired in chaos since the 2011 overthrow of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi, is divided between forces loyal to the GNA and those of Khalifa Haftar, a military commander who backs a rival administration in the country’s east.

It has not recorded any cases of the COVID-19 disease, but experts fear an outbreak could be catastrophic due to the country’s degraded health system.

UN chief Antonio Guterres on Saturday joined those expressing concern and urged both GNA and Haftar forces to observe a truce in their deadly 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.