May 26 – 30, 2020 | Press Review

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Photo: John S. sur Flickr

May 27, 2020: Tunisia suspends the use of chloroquine

“Chloroquine treatment for patients with COVID-19 has been suspended in all hospitals in Tunisia,” announced Jalila Ben Khalil, a member of the Standing Committee for the Fight against Coronavirus, on Wednesday, May 27. This decision comes after the World Health Organization announced on Monday the temporary suspension of clinical trials with hydroxychloroquine that it is conducting with its partners in several countries, as a precautionary measure. Ben Khalil justified, in a statement to TAP, this decision by “the decline in the number of patients with COVID-19 in hospitals reporting that as of May 26, 2020, only 2 patients are hospitalized out of a total of 74 active cases placed under surveillance”.

At the end of March this year, the Director General of Basic Health Care, Chokri Hammouda, announced the launch of the use of chloroquine in clinical trials to treat coronavirus patients. This molecule had been administered in combination with other drugs. A number of departments in Tunisian public hospitals had been authorized to use chloroquine to treat coronavirus patients. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced last Monday the temporary suspension of clinical trials with hydroxychloroquine that it is conducting with its partners in several countries, as a precautionary measure, following the publication of a study in the medical journal The Lancet that found the use of chloroquine or its derivatives such as hydroxychloroquine to be ineffective, or even harmful, against COVID-19.

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May 28, 2020: National Exams – A provisional examination centre in each governorate for suspicious cases

“A temporary examination centre has been set up in each governorate by the Ministry of Education to allow suspected cases of coronavirus infection among candidates for the national examinations to take their tests in good conditions,” said Mohamed El Hamdi, Minister of Education in an interview with TAP. “All financial and human resources have been mobilized to ensure a good resumption of classes for teachers and students of the baccalaureate as well as a safe passage of the national exams in this period of pandemic,” he added.

The minister specified that the guarantee of physical distance has required the mobilization of additional rooms and the multiplication of the number of teachers who will be responsible for monitoring the national examinations (baccalaureate, basic education diploma and access competition to pilot colleges). In addition, El Hamdi reported that the various measures taken by the Ministry have taken into account the supreme interest of the pupil and the credibility of the national examinations. In this context, he indicated that the decision to take the ninth basic grade examination and the sixth primary school competitive examination in two days instead of three each was taken, after consultation with experts, in order to spare pupils the need to return to the examination centre on a third day in this difficult situation.

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May 28, 2020: Impact of containment on the economy

The Board of Directors of the Central Bank of Tunisia held its periodic meeting on May 27, 2020 to monitor recent developments in the national economic situation and analyze the evolution of the main economic, monetary and financial indicators. Discussions focused in particular on the international repercussions of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Tunisian economy, as well as the impact of the general health containment that began on March 22, 2020 at the national level.

This situation weighed on certain export-oriented sectors, in particular the mechanical and electrical industries and those of textiles, clothing, leather and footwear, as well as tourism and transport, in addition to sectors oriented towards domestic demand. This has also affected the investment climate and consumption. Nevertheless, a slight improvement in economic activity is expected for the coming period in connection with the targeted health de-confinement and the gradual recovery of activity in a number of sectors.

Regarding prices, the council reports the continued rise in the inflation rate which reached 6.3% year-on-year in April 2020, compared to 6.2% in March, due to the increase in food prices in a context marked by strong demand and the disruption of distribution channels recorded during the confinement, in addition to the advent of the holy month of Ramadan. In addition, the Council noted a decline in the current account deficit in the first four months of 2020 to 2.8% of GDP, compared to 3.6% for the same period last year, mainly related to the narrowing of the trade deficit. At the same time, however, tourism receipts and labour income declined as a result of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

134 days of imports

Net external capital inflows were able to cover the current account deficit and consolidate net foreign exchange assets, which reached 21.724 billion dinars or 134 days of imports as of 26 May 2020 compared to 13.139 billion dinars for 74 days of imports on the same date in 2019. Consequently, the council considers it necessary to accelerate the pace of recovery of the activity of the exporting sectors, such as phosphate and its derivatives and energy, given their important role in controlling the current deficit and easing tensions on net foreign exchange assets, following in particular the anticipation of a significant drop in tourism receipts and labour income as a result of the coronavirus crisis. After discussion and deliberation on the above-mentioned points, the Board affirmed that the Central Bank continues to closely monitor the evolution of economic indicators and the performance of the various sectors as well as the impact of the new coronavirus.

Creation of a new category of financing

And in addition to the panoply of exceptional measures already taken to deal with the fallout from the health crisis, the BCT Board has decided to create a new category of financing eligible for refinancing to enable banks to support businesses and meet their exceptional needs in order to ensure their sustainability and to consolidate the economic fabric and preserve financial stability. Finally, the Board decided to keep the BCT’s key interest rate unchanged.

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May 28, 2020: The risk of COVID-19 contamination in Tunisia is 60 times higher in imported cases than in local cases

Some 15,495 people were placed in compulsory isolation in 80 centres in 21 governorates until yesterday, Wednesday 27 May, the Ministry of Health said in a statement released last night. The same department adds that 12,572 people have completed the period of isolation, while 2,923 are still residing in the dedicated centres. Of the total, 13,362 (87%) resided in hotels, 1327 (8%) spent this period in university hostels, and 806 (5%) were accommodated in other centres.

54 healthy carriers still in isolation centres

473 people infected with the virus without showing symptoms (healthy carriers) were housed in isolation centres, 419 of whom recovered. While 54 people still infected reside in three centres: Monastir (41), Jerba (11) and Sfax (02). The prevalence of COVID-19 among returnees is 394 per 100 thousand returnees, after 21 March 2020 (date of the start of total containment), while the prevalence of local cases is 6.7% per 100 thousand inhabitants. The risk of COVID-19 contamination after containment among the returnees is 60 times higher than among local cases, which means that the risk of local contamination is basically linked to imported cases, hence the importance of the isolation strategy and the need to continue it, the Ministry concludes.

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May 30, 2020: Tunisia prepares for the high tourist season

It is not known exactly when the 2020 tourist season will start in Tunisia, but all stakeholders are preparing and are acting as if it should start very soon, at the end of June or early July, i.e. at the beginning of the summer high season, hoping for a return of visitor flows from European countries. It is within this framework that a working meeting was held yesterday, Friday, May 29, chaired by the Minister of Tourism and Handicrafts, Mohamed Ali Toumi, and his colleague from the ministery of Health, Abdellatif Mekki, with the participation of the executives of the two departments. The meeting dealt with the health protocols to be put in place to ensure the smooth running of the summer season, in the strict respect of the measures of protection against the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), especially in the means of transport (planes, car ferries, buses…) and in the hotel and leisure establishments: physical distancing, barrier gestures, hygiene of rooms and common spaces. It is a question, it is understood, of preserving the health of the visitors, Tunisians and foreigners, as well as that of the employees and professionals of the sector. The discussion focused mainly on the technical, logistical and sanitary means to be implemented, in order to ensure the success of the next high tourist season which the Tunisian economy, almost at a standstill since last March 2, date of the detection of the first case of coronavirus in Tunisia, is in dire need to revive itself and make up for lost time.

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