Lockdowns extended amid exponential increases in COVID-19 cases
In August, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Libya saw a four-fold increase, and as of 31 August, stood at 14,624 confirmed cases and 242 deaths. Amid these exponential increases, community transmission has now been confirmed in some of Libya’s main cities, including Tripoli and Sebha.
As a result of continued increases in COVID-19 cases, the Government of National Accord (GNA) announced new curfew measures. The new curfew, implemented from 26 August, included a 24hr lockdown for the first four days followed by a 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew until 8 September. Existing measures on the restrictions of movement between administrative cities’ borders and limiting of large gatherings pertaining to social, religious and/or national events has continued. Major markets and shops were to remain closed during the curfews except for those that provide essential and basic services for the citizens, such as food stores and pharmacies.
Persistent and acute shortages in COVID-19 testing capabilities and supplies, along with adequate health care facilities and contact tracing means the true scale of the pandemic in Libya is likely to be much higher. More than nine years of conflict has resulted in the near collapse of the health system, with approximately 50 per cent of primary health care facilities remaining closed. Those that remain open do not have sufficient supplies, equipment or human resources to care for COVID-19 patients along with maintaining normal health services, including child immunization programmes. An increasing numbers of health care staff are contracting COVID-19 due to a lack of personal protective equipment and adequate infection, prevention and control procedures, placing further weight on an overburden system. Challenges also remain in facilitating timely approval for the importation of health supplies, the release of COVID-19 top up salaries and provision of personal protective equipment to health workers. Improving coordination between the Ministries of Health and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), and understanding where and how COVID-19 funds announced by Libyans authorities have been spent, remain critical to effectively combating the disease.
Humanitarian organizations are at the forefront of supporting national authorities in the COVID-19 response, through the provision of health supplies and personal protection equipment. A total of 891,000 people have been reached by all responding organizations with assistance to address the impact of COVID-19 in line with the COVID-19 Health Sector Pillars. Of these 182,000 people have been reached with humanitarian assistance that is also aligned with the 2020 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP), 49 per cent of which was directly through HRP-funded activities.