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TRIPOLI, July 11 -- The Libyan government on Thursday announced closure of its border with Tunisia over concern about the spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant, Xinhua news agency reported.
Due to the deteriorating pandemic situation in Tunisia amid the rise in infections with the Delta variant, as well as the announcement of the collapse of Tunisia's health system, the Libyan government decided to close the air and land borders with Tunisia for a week starting from 00:00 local time Friday (2200 GMT Thursday), said the government's spokesman Mohamed Hamuda.
"The Libyan state, through its consulate in Tunisia, will take care of its nationals stranded in the Tunisian territories due to the decision, until their return home is facilitated," he added.
Meanwhile, according to the spokesman, schools and universities in Libya have been closed temporarily until the Eid Al-Adha holiday, which is expected to start on July 20.
As many Libyans who had planned to return home were stuck at the Tunisian airports and near the border due to the decision, Libyan President of the Presidency Council Mohamed Menfi on Saturday issued instructions to all relevant authorities to assist the Libyans to return home, noting that all precautionary measures should be taken upon their return.
The border between Libya and Tunisia was reopened in November after months of closure amid the pandemic, following the two countries' announcement to agree upon mutual health protocol against the virus.
Libyan Health Minister Ali Zanati confirmed that the infections in the country are increasing, while the number of fatalities is "not large."
"Over the past few days, Libya has recorded alarming numbers of cases, after the situation remained under control for many weeks. Libyan cities located near the border with Tunisia witnessed high numbers in infections," Badr Addin al-Najjar, director of the Libyan National Center for Disease Control, told Xinhua.
"The fight against the virus is far from over. The virus still strikes and changes," he said. "Therefore, precautions must be taken seriously."
Muhammad al-Hashimi, a respiratory diseases specialist, said that Libya was very late in closing the border with Tunisia, since the delta variant has been hitting Tunisia for weeks.
"This variant is very dangerous because it spreads in an unprecedented way and (the) infection (situation) is very serious," al-Hashimi told Xinhua. "Therefore, the best measure is to stop travel to Tunisia and the countries in which this variant is active."
Libya has so far reported more than 200,000 COVID-19 cases with 180,484 recoveries and 3,232 deaths, according to the National Center for Disease Control.
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