May 18 – 23, 2020 | Press Review

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Photo: John S. on Flickr

May 18, 2020: Tunisia adopts the tracking system

Rather discreetly, the news is officialized Monday, May 18 at midday by the official page of the Tunisian Ministry of Health: from today, the country will adopt an application allowing the follow-up and individual tracing of people contaminated by the Coronavirus. A late adoption that is not to everyone’s liking. It will be called “Ehmi” (“protect”). The new application aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus will be gradually deployed, according to a press release from the Ministry of Health, which announced the signing of an agreement to use the application that will run on Android and iOS operating systems for smartphones and PCs. The agreement in question was signed between the National Observatory for New and Emerging Diseases (ONMNE) and the Tunisian company “Wizzlabs”, a little-known Tunisian computer company, presented as specializing in the design of electronic programs and the development of applications, as part of support for the efforts of health authorities to fight the epidemic. The startup has only been present on social networks since 2017.

Lack of social debate on personal data

The application will make it possible to determine the position and route of persons reported as COVID-19 positive, former or current carriers of the virus, as well as all persons who have come into contact with them in public spaces and in transport, via mobile phones and other PCs and tablets. While the Department of Health is at liberty to specify that the software is “subject to all personal data protection requirements specified by the National Authority for the Protection of Personal Data, in accordance with the laws in force”, and to justify itself by recalling that such applications “have been adopted by certain Asian countries (with reference to South Korea in particular, editor’s note) where they have proved their effectiveness in curbing the epidemic”, the announcement of its adoption without prior debate either in Parliament or even in the media comes as a surprise. In addition to the lack of resources allocated to the institution, Chawki Gaddes, president of the National Personal Data Protection Authority (INPDP), had called in early 2020 on the ARP deputies to speed up the adoption of the draft organic law on the protection of personal data, still in the drawers of the Assembly.

Another controversy is the issue of timing and epidemiological chronology. If in the Asian countries mentioned, tracing applications were adopted upstream, as early as February, very early in the spread of the virus, which had moreover aroused criticism from many French media on the issue of patients’ privacy, Tunisia has returned to the 0 cases recorded yesterday Sunday, after the registration of two Gafsa cases, which still puts it at “only” 1037 cases. In France, at a time when citizen tracking systems are beginning to be put in place to accompany the deconfinement, the National Pilot Committee for Digital Ethics (CNPEN), a body set up last December, has released several reports, and there were questions on the other side of the Mediterranean about burying “StopCovid”, which was not ready for May 11, the date on which deconfinement began, whereas the application is intended to be ready by June 2, for the second phase of deconfinement.

For more information (in French), please consult the following link.

May 18, 2020: Tunisia receives medical aid from Turkey

Tunisia has received, this Sunday, May 17, 2020, medical aid offered by Turkey, reads a statement issued by the Ministry of Health. This initiative is part of the consolidation of Tunisia’s efforts in the fight against the spread of coronavirus, the same press release reads. Among these aids are protective suits, medical gowns and surgical masks, according to the same source.

For more information (in French), please consult the following link.

May 19 ,2020: Tunisia, in full deconfinement, records its first death in 10 days

A man who died in Mahdia (center) tested positive for the new coronavirus, the Ministry of Health said Tuesday, the first death related to this disease in 10 days in Tunisia, where a deconfinement began May 4. This death brings to 46 the number of deaths in Tunisia, where an early and strict confinement had been decreed as early as March 22. The pandemic, which has never overwhelmed hospital capacity, had stalled last week, with five successive days with no new cases reported.

However, the number of identified cases rebounded on Monday, with five cases recorded in quarantine centres where people returning from abroad are staying.

This is the first time since 4 May that such a large number of cases have been identified. This brings to 1,043 the total number of patients officially counted in the country. Thousands of people who arrived in Tunisia on special flights are currently under quarantine in homes, hotels or other accommodation centres. They cannot leave their rooms until they have tested negative, 14 days after their arrival. Only three people are currently hospitalized, according to the Ministry of Health, and 819 are officially cured, with the remaining identified cases in isolation outside their homes. Health Minister Mekki announced on Sunday evening that it was “forbidden” to gather at the beach, and called on Tunisians not to go there, to slow the spread of the virus.

Markets and supermarkets reopened on Friday, but schools will remain closed until September: only those who have passed the baccalaureate will resume classes at the end of May for a month to prepare for the tests.
Travel between regions has been banned for the Eid el-Fitr weekend, usually marked by family reunions. “It is possible to wish a happy holiday by phone or from a distance,” said last week the head of the Observatory of New Diseases, Nissaf Ben Aleya. She called on Tunisians to avoid hugs on this religious holiday in order to “protect our families”.

For more information (in French), please consult the following link.

May 19, 2020: German donation to benefit 41 municipalities

Germany has donated protective equipment to 41 municipalities in the governorates of Nabeul, Zaghouan, Siliana, Kairouan, Sidi Bouzid and Le Kef to combat the spread of the coronavirus. A ceremony for the distribution of this health protection equipment took place on Tuesday 19 May at the premises of the German International Cooperation Agency (GIZ). The initiative falls within the framework of support for the efforts of Tunisia, and in particular those of the local authorities, in the prevention and the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The equipment, mainly intended for the agents in charge of household waste collection, is composed of 1000 pairs of protective glasses, 500 pairs of safety shoes and 500 pairs of handling gloves. Also included in the batch are 200 knapsack sprayers for the disinfection of public premises and dispensers of hydroalcoholic gel for the agents of municipalities, says a press release from the German Embassy in Tunisia. This initiative is financed by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in coordination with the German Agency for International Cooperation.

For more information (in French), please consult the following link.

May 21, 2020: Mosques, cafes, hotels and restaurants will reopen on June 4

The Tunisian authorities have decided to reopen mosques and all places of worship as well as cafes, restaurants and hotels on 4 June, after more than two months of closure due to the pandemic. Ministers of Major Projects Lobna Jeribi, Interior Hichem Mechichi and Religious Affairs Ahmed Adhoum added that this date could be changed if the coronavirus epidemic resumes in Tunisia.

Hotels and restaurants, closed since 22 March, will reopen at 50% of their capacity. A health protocol is currently being finalised to detail preventive measures in tourist establishments.

All containment measures are scheduled to be lifted on June 14. Travel between governorates remains prohibited, and security checks will be stepped up this weekend for Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the month of Ramadan, which usually translates into family reunions. Schools remain closed until September: only preparatory classes for the baccalaureate will resume at the end of May for one month. Crèche and day-care centres will also reopen at the end of May. Since the beginning of March, some 1,045 coronavirus patients have been officially declared, 47 of whom have died.

For more information (in French), please consult the following link.

22 May, 2020: Coronavirus in Tunisia, Coronavirus in Tunisia, Out of stock of single-use protective masks

Single-use surgical masks are out of stock at wholesalers and private pharmacies, warns the president of the Tunisian Union of Pharmacy Owners, Mustapha Laaroussi. “The Ministry of Commerce has been alerted, in order to provide the necessary quantities of these subsidized masks in pharmacies, sold at 500 millimes” adds the same source in a statement today, Friday, May 21, 2020, to the TAP agency. Mr. Laaroussi said the central pharmacy and the Ministry of Commerce had supplied the market on May 2 this year, and that the majority of stocks have been exhausted, adding that the remaining quantities continue to be sold but at varying prices.

For more information (in French), please consult the following link.

May 22, 2020: Abdellatif Mekki warns of a second wave of coronavirus contamination

The Minister of Health, Abdellatif Mekki, warned of the danger of a second wave of Corona virus contamination in the current period. “The statistics on the epidemiological situation for this period are similar to the epidemiological scene before the previous wave,” he stressed in a statement on national radio, Friday, May 22, 2020. Failure to comply with the simple rules of prevention against the virus will worsen the situation, he said, indicating that the state has fulfilled its duty by lightening the containment and trusting the citizens who are obliged to comply with health security measures.

For more information (in French), please consult the following link.

May 22, 2020: The legality of electronic documents approved by the Council of Ministers

The Council of Ministers approved, during its meeting held on Thursday, May 21, 2020, at the Government Palace in the Kasbah, under the chairmanship of the Head of Government, Elyes Fakhfakh, five draft decree-laws and a draft government decree. Among the draft decree-laws approved the most significant are, the one providing for measures for the benefit of the tourism and handicrafts sectors and the one on the electronic transmission of data and documents. According to the spokeswoman, Asma Shiri, relayed by the TAP agency, particular emphasis was placed on a presentation made by the Minister of Finance on the situation of public finances, without giving further details.

– A decree-law approving the loan agreement concluded on 11 May between Tunisia and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) for the financing of the project to combat the coronavirus pandemic;
– A decree-law on the institution of additional measures to support companies affected by the spread of COVID-19, decreeing additional support measures;
– A Decree-Law laying down exceptional provisions relating to the electronic exchange of data and documents between public bodies, and between such bodies and persons connected with them, while affirming the legal nature of the electronic document. The text also provides for the digitisation of administrative transactions;
– A Decree-Law on exceptional provisions in the field of activity of travel agencies, aimed in particular at suspending the application of the penalty of temporary suspension of travel agents, in the event that they do not fulfil their commitments to their customers due to the Coronavirus pandemic, allowing their customers to obtain vouchers for the value of the sums paid for reservations, and extending the period during which they can benefit from services that could not be provided to them because of the Coronavirus;
– A decree-law laying down provisions for the extension of concession contracts;
– A draft government decree on the appointment of members of a provisional management commission for the communes of Kesra (governorate of Siliana) and Hassi el-Ferid (governorate of Kasserine).

For more information (in French), please consult the following link.

May 22, 2020: Eid El-Fitr celebrated on Sunday 24 May 2020

he Mufti of the Republic has announced that Eid El-Fitr will be celebrated this year on Sunday, May 24, 2020. The National Institute of Meteorology (INM) announced earlier in the day that the crescent of Eid El-Fitr will not be observable this evening. Eid will be celebrated this year in unusual circumstances due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Aid prayer has been cancelled, and travel has been banned except in cases of force majeure. On the occasion of the Aid el-Fitr marking the end of Ramadan, civil servants, employees of the State, local authorities and public administrative institutions will be granted three days off. They will be at rest on Saturday 23, Sunday 24 and Monday 25 May 2020.

For more information (in French), please consult the following link.

May 22, 2020: Date of reopening of the festival halls and Moorish baths

The Minister to the Head of Government in charge of Major Projects, Lobna Jeribi, announced on Friday 22 May 2020 during her intervention on the radio Express Fm that the festival halls and the Moorish baths will be open from 14 June. She confided that the resumption of these sectors will be determined the prevention measures established in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and the Scientific Committee for the Fight against Coronavirus.

For more information (in French), please consult the following link.