The mayor of the western city of Misrata died Monday of the novel coronavirus, Libya’s unity government said, as the conflict-scarred country struggles with mounting cases.
“It was with great sadness that we learned of the death of Moustafa Karwad, mayor of Misrata, Monday morning, after a battle against the coronavirus disease,” the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord said in a statement on its Facebook page.
The municipality of Misrata, 200 kilometres (120 miles) east of the capital, said local elections would go ahead as planned this week “in accordance with the wishes of the deceased and the wish of members of the (city) council”, after a mourning period of three days.
The United Nations support mission in Libya, UNSMIL, tweeted its condolences, calling Karwad “a dedicated person totally omitted to serving citizens and the nation”.
Misrata is the home of powerful armed groups that have fought on the side of the GNA in the battle against eastern-based military strongman Khalifa Haftar, who tried to seize the capital last year.
Libya, ravaged by a complex web of conflicts since the fall and killing of longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising, has seen Covid-19 cases surge, weighing on already stretched health services.
Health authorities say the North African country has seen almost 14,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 237 deaths.
The World Health Organization last week voiced alarm over the uptick in infections.
“Compounding the situation, Libya’s health care system has been badly disrupted by years of conflict,” it said, adding that around half of its primary health care facilities are closed.
“Given the acute shortages of tests and laboratory capacity, the real number of (Covid-19) cases is likely to be much higher.”