In Libya, the first bulwark war against the coronavirus?

US, WASHINGTON (NEWS OBSERVATORY) — Ignoring calls by health authorities to avoid rallies to protect against the new coronavirus, Moayed al-Missaoui follows an Italian football championship game broadcast on television in a crowded cafe in the Libyan capital.

Like him, many Libyans believe that the conflict tearing their country apart has at least one positive aspect. For them, the closure of the only international airport in Tripoli and the limited links with foreign countries because of the war protects them from the Covid-19: if the epidemic has affected neighboring countries, no case has been reported. day in Libya.

“We are safe from viruses in Libya, a country whose capital is under siege and whose land and airport exits are closed,” said Moayed al-Missaoui.

For this Tripoli academic, the Libyans have “nothing to fear”, unlike countries with permanent contacts with the rest of the world.

He and his friends have their eyes riveted on the screen to follow a match that is being played in Italy in an empty stadium. You can clearly hear on television the echo of the referee’s whistles and the coaches’ cries, cutting with the hubbub in the cafe.

Italian championship games were turned upside down this week by the outbreak of the new coronavirus, which has led Italian authorities to impose a closed camera in a country among the most affected in the world which now lives under bell.

“Our Italian neighbors are deprived of the pleasure of attending the match in stadiums and even in cafes and public places when it is pure pleasure for us,” said Moayed with a smile.

– Zero cases –

Its neighbor, Diya Abdel Karim, believes that it is more “sensible” to manage this epidemic with relaxation to avoid the wave of panic which reigns in the affected countries.

“It is better not to create fear and panic among people so that the authorities can apply preventive health measures without pressure,” said the dentist, stressing, however, that “we must be vigilant”.

So far, Libyan authorities say no cases of contamination have been identified, which does not rule out the existence of isolated uncontrolled cases in a country plagued by chaos for years.

“Thank God, we have not registered any cases,” Badreddine al-Najjar, president of the National Center for Disease Control (CNLM), told AFP.

The CNLM, a government entity based in Tripoli, however, plans to take preventive measures against possible contamination from, in particular, the neighboring countries of Libya which have registered cases of Covid-19.

“The virus surrounds Libya on all sides. (…) There is a need to monitor this cross-border danger”, even if movement to and from Libya is limited, added Mr. Najjar.

Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt announced cases of Covid-19 this week, “but we cannot yet speak of an epidemic,” he said.

Anyway, the health authorities are preparing, according to Mr. Najjar: “As of next week, the quarantine and isolation cells will be ready.”

– Sold out –

As an example of Libya’s isolation from the rest of the world due to the armed conflicts and violence that have shaken the country since the fall in 2011 of Muammar Gaddafi, no civilian aircraft currently lands in the capital.

To get from Europe to Tripoli, you have to go to Tunis or Istanbul, then take a flight to Misrata and continue on a 200 km journey by car to Tripoli, if the security conditions allow it. Another option is a day by car from Tunis to the Ras J├ędir border post, before continuing on an arduous 150 km journey to the capital, during which the coronavirus is not the main source of insecurity. .

At the end of 2019, an AFP journalist took more than a week before he could reach Tripoli from a European capital.

But some Libyans nevertheless fear not being immune to contamination, the effects of which would then be catastrophic in a country where the war has killed hundreds of people and displaced more than 150,000 others.

So they take precautions.

This has already led to stock-outs in pharmacies and supermarkets for certain products.

“Imports of hydroalcoholic gel, masks and gloves have increased significantly,” said AFP Mounir el-Hazel, director of a company importing medical equipment.

“Traders, pharmacists and individuals (…) are preparing for possible shortages,” he explains.

And some take advantage of it. According to this businessman, the prices of certain products were multiplied by three, even six, compared to the month of December.


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Article is written and prepared by our foreign editors from different countries around the world – material edited and published by News Observatory staff in our US newsroom.