As of 26 May 2020, there are 75 confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported in Libya, including three deaths.
In May, 1,009 incidents of access constraints have been reported, 67 per cent were directly or indirectly related to COVID-19.
Priority health response activities include support for health rapid response teams, personal protective equipment, lab diagnostic kits and supplies, establishment and support to isolation sites, as well as capacity building and education/awareness raising.
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As of 26 May 2020, the Libyan National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) reported 75 confirmed cases, including three COVID-related deaths, in Libya. A total of 40 people have recovered and 32 remain under observation. A total of 5,154 tests have been performed. Cases are mostly in Tripoli (52) and Misrata (10), and Benghazi (4), with other cases reported in Jafara, Zliten, Surman, Yefren and Azzawiya.
Testing capacity continues to slowly increase. Laboratory capacity to test COVID-19 samples has increased from two to six laboratories (three in Tripoli, two in Benghazi and one in Misrata) and the NCDC is establishing three additional laboratories (two in Sebha and one in Zawiya). The Government of National Accord (GNA) has reported that 600 isolation beds are ready in Tripoli and another 600 beds were being prepared in other parts of the country.
Health authorities have also agreed to expand the testing strategy to include patients with influenza-like illness or severe acute respiratory infection, as well as migrants in the South and people in Libyan jails and detention centres. The NCDC is revising its case definitions and expanding contact tracing. Furthermore, while there have been no reported people with COVID-19 in the South, the authorities plan to collect 300 specimens from high-risk and vulnerable groups such as migrants, internally displaced persons (IDPs), medical staff working in intensive care and emergency and food sellers.
A COVID-19 Rapid Response Centre has been established in Tripoli, which will be staffed by 40 doctors and 20 consultants to respond to incoming calls. The centre will be linked to all 19 established isolation and hospitalization sites and will coordinate its work with 65 Rapid Response Teams and almost 600 health professionals. It is unclear at this stage if there is any overlap between this new centre and an earlier one established by the NCDC.
Repatriations of Libyans from abroad continues in both the West and the East. Approximately 2,000 Libyan have returned through the land border with Egypt. Other repatriations are being conducted from Egypt and Jordan through Benina airport (Benghazi) and from Turkey and Tunisia through Misrata airport (Misrata). However, the majority of people recently identified with COVID-19 have been Libyans recently repatriated from abroad, with seven of the last eight reported cases being recently repatriated Libyans (six from Turkey and one from Tunisia). This reinforces the importance of testing and isolation procedures.
On 18 May, WHO and UNICEF released a statement highlighting that a quarter of a million children under 1 years old are at risk of suffering from preventable diseases due to critical vaccine shortages. For the past two months, access to routine immunization services has been disrupted as a result of the COVID-19 and due to lengthy government approval processes. This leads to an increased risk of a resurgence of measles and polio outbreaks across the country. Children in hard-toreach and conflict-affected areas are at particular risk because they may have already missed some vaccination doses, as are migrant, refugee or internally displaced children who may not have received their basic vaccination doses in their country of origin or may have missed the required doses in Libya. Libya's Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) was disrupted due to vaccine stock outs in 2019 and with global supply chain constraints arising from the pandemic, the country is likely to face an extended stock out for a second year running.
Recent assessments conducted during the last two weeks by specialized actors, as well as data from protection needs assessments and various protection partner hotline calls suggest that there is generally information available and a good level of community understanding of the COVID pandemic and the preventive measures. However, there is less knowledge on where to seek assistance in case of symptoms. Facebook and other social media platforms remain the main sources of information for most people.
In a recent Mixed Migration Centre survey, cash continues to be the most requested extra form of assistance particularly for migrants and refugees. According to their survey, 63 per cent of migrants and refugees surveyed noted the need for cash, with 47 per cent reporting basic needs in food, water and shelter, and 25 per cent reporting the need for sanitary items. The need for cash may be linked to the impact of wage reductions, which has particularly impacted migrants and refugees and their ability to pay housing rent. Furthermore, there are continued concerns in accessing health services, due to fear of arrest and discrimination as barriers to access healthcare. Of the migrants and refugees surveyed in Sabha and in Tripoli, only 22 per cent and 35 per cent, respectively, noted that they would be able to access healthcare if they had coronavirus symptoms today.
The impact of COVID-19 has affected global transportation, the availability and prices of supplies and air travel. This, in addition to local movement restrictions and curfews, has made maintaining and ramping up the humanitarian response in Libya all the more challenging. For the month of April, humanitarian partners reported a total of 1,009 incidents of access constraints. This marks an increase of about 158 incidents – 18.5 per cent – compared to March 2020. The increase can be attributed to the worsening situation of the COVID-19 outbreak at the global level and its impacts across Libya. It can also be attributed to a more robust access monitoring system that has been put in place in Libya.
Of all reported access constraints in April, 67 per cent were directly or indirectly related to COVID-19. A commonly reported incidents were in relation to limited flights into the country which significantly limited staff rotations and transport of humanitarian supplies, in addition to movement restrictions and curfews in the country which limited movements (particularly between municipalities) or required the negotiation of specific permissions to enable the continuation of operations.