Libya's National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) recorded on Tuesday 749 new coronavirus cases and 18 deaths from the virus over the last 24-hours amid fears COVID-19 could spread uncontrolled across the war-torn country.
Libya's official coronavirus tally had remained suspiciously low until this week, likely a reflection of the lack of testing and recording in the country, where control is split between warring factions.
The country recorded its first daily rise in cases above 100 on July 18, months after the coronavirus pandemic had already infected millions and killed hundreds of thousands globally, according to data from Worldometer.
However, the number of daily cases began to rise sharply in mid-August, increasing further to around 600-650 cases per day in early September. This number then jumped massively on Monday, with an increase of 1,085 cases reported in a 24-hour period.
Tuesday's increase brings the official total number of cases to 19,583. The percentage of these active total cases is far higher than in other countries, with only 2,247 having recovered.
The 18 additional deaths also bring the official death toll in the country to 314.
Fears over spread amid conflict
The NCDC announced the numbers on Facebook, where it also gave a breakdown of the cases.
According to the post, the NCDC received test samples at laboratories in locations across Libya in territories controlled by rival groups.
Libya has been in conflict since the fall of dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi in 2011. The western half of the country is currently controlled by the Government of National Accord, based in Tripoli and backed by a range of militias and Turkish forces, while the east is governed by the Libyan National Army (LNA), led by commander Khalifa Haftar and backed by international actors including Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.
The World Health Organization has voiced alarm over the uptick in infections and warned that the virus is likely far more widespread in the country.
“Compounding the situation, Libya’s health care system has been badly disrupted by years of conflict,” the WHO said.
“Given the acute shortages of tests and laboratory capacity, the real number of (Covid-19) cases is likely to be much higher.”