Employees wearing face masks work at a restaurant in Tripoli, Libya, on July 5, 2020. (Photo by Mohamed Arhoma/Xinhua)
TRIPOLI, July 7 (Xinhua) -- More than three months ago, Ihab Al-Shiby had to close his fast food restaurant in the center of Libya's capital Tripoli as part of a series of precautionary measures against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Al-Shiby's restaurant was one of the hundreds of restaurants and cafes in the capital city affected by the anti-coronavirus measures.
The recent war between the east-based army and the UN-backed government in and around Tripoli also impacted the restaurant business in Tripoli.
"My restaurant, like others, was negatively affected by the war that erupted last year as people couldn't move freely in Tripoli for fear of indiscriminate shelling," Al-Shiby told Xinhua.
"Since early March and with the outbreak of the pandemic, the government has issued a decision to close restaurants and cafes. That's when my private project, which employs 15 people, was completely shut down," he explained.
Now, Al-Shiby noted the reopening of his restaurant after nearly four months of closure has made him feel relieved.
"The optimism is mixed with caution and suspicion because the conditions for reopening cafes include either serving by deliveries or handing over the food to customers outside," Al-Shiby said.
"This reduces the number of served meals and therefore, we will face difficulties in continuing work," he added.
Mariam Al-Tuhami, a customer, said she misses the past experiences at restaurants which have been gone due to the recent war and the pandemic.
"Prices of some restaurant meals have increased by 25 percent to 50 percent ... making us think twice before buying meals from restaurants," she told Xinhua.
A few days ago, the Libyan authorities allowed certain businesses, including restaurants and cafes, to reopen under strict conditions.
Customers are not allowed to eat inside restaurants and meals are either handed over to customers outside or delivered.
Only half of the workers are allowed to be present at the same time, along with strict controls related to sterilization and disinfection. Violators are fined or even have their licenses revoked.
Omar Hassan, a restaurant's worker, feels happy to come back to work, as he has been unemployed for more than three months.
"I lost hope that restaurants will reopen soon, especially since I spent years of cooking courses and training. This is the only job I have mastered to earn a living," Hassan told Xinhua.
"With the current gradual resumption of work, we feel helpful because this is a positive thing and things will return to normal with time," he said.
According to the Libyan National Center for Disease Control, the total confirmed COVID-19 cases in Libya has so far increased to 1,046, including 261 recoveries and 32 deaths.
Tripoli had witnessed more than a year of deadly armed conflict between the UN-backed government and the east-based army, before the UN-backed government recently announced its takeover of all western Libya after withdrawal of the rival east-based army.