TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Libya’s new unity government on Thursday announced it was closing its borders with Tunisia for a week due to the rise in coronavirus cases in the neighboring country, a government spokesman said.
The decision came as a precautionary step to what the government described as “worsening situation and collapsed health system,” as well as the increasing number of cases with coronavirus delta variant in Tunisia.
The closure of both land border and airport with Tunisia will start as of Thursday midnight, Mohamed Hamouda, the Government of National Unity (GNU) spokesman said.
Hamouda also said universities and schools have suspended classes for around two weeks for the same reason.
After successfully containing the virus in the first wave last year, Tunisia grappled with a rise in infections. It has imposed a lockdown in some cities since last week, but rejected a full national lockdown due to its economic crisis.
The total number of cases in Tunisia has climbed to around 465,000, with more than 15,000 deaths recorded.
“The Libyan state ,through its consulate in Tunisia ,will take care of its nationals stranded in Tunisia territory as a result of this decision until their return to the country is facilitated,” said Hamouda.
Many Libyans travel to Tunisia for medical treatment, but the number rose as the oil-rich country slid into chaos after the fall of former President Muammar Gaddafi in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011.
Libya has recorded 160,095 cases and 3227 deaths. The country’s National Centre for Disease Control said 413,883 of its about 6.5 million residents have been vaccinated.
(reporting and writing by Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli;additional reporting by Tarek Amara in Tunis; Editing by Aurora Ellis)