June 12 – 15, 2020 | Press Review

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Photo: John S. on Flickr

June 12, 2020: A tourism recovery a little too conditioned

The Tunisian government is going to open the borders from 27 June this year, hoping for a strong resumption of visitor flows to save a very badly started tourist season, but the measures taken in the context of COVID-19 prevention remain rather vague or difficult to implement and enforce. The government issued a statement yesterday Saturday, June 12, 2020, informing us that it would proceed to open the borders and remove the mandatory one-week confinement at their expense for Tunisians residing abroad (TRE), who would come back home, however, this one-week confinement in a hotel was replaced by a two-week confinement at home. It also allows tourists to come to Tunisia to spend their holidays without being subject to confinement. However, these tourists have to comply with standard bus transport. They can also only leave the hotel in the framework of organised excursions. Both TRE and tourists must also present a negative test at the COVID-19, a test that is less than 72 hours old. Very good news! However, this decision seems to be based on stereotypes. All travellers (TRE and tourists) come from nearby countries, 2 to 3 hours flight time, because the one who makes 24 hours of travel, cannot present a test made less than 72 hours ago.

While the Ministry of Tourism and professionals want to break the stereotype of seaside tourism, this press release from the government considers that all tourists who come to Tunisia have bought their stays from a TO who takes care of everything: flights, transfers, accommodation, excursions, etc.. As if there were no tourists who organize their stays on their own, via Booking or Traveltodo, or that no tourist books his stay via AirBnB outside a hotel, who buys his plane ticket alone from airlines or specialized platforms, etc., and for whom these conditions are not imposed. Worse still, what about our Algerian and Libyan friends? Have we not said that they are the ones who will save our tourist season? None of them take a tourist bus once they arrive at the borders and a good majority of them rent houses and do not live in hotels. As for the TREs, let’s not talk about them. In this stereotype, they are people who have the means, a lot of means, and who come to spend the two summer months in Tunisia. No one comes for only two or three weeks, to say the least.

They are told the end of the one-week confinement in the hotel, but they are forced to spend two weeks at home. The choice is: 1/ We don’t want them to come. We might as well say it clearly and from now on, the TREs will bring back less currency than tourists. 2/ We haven’t thought about it, I’m willing to believe it and accept it, in which case let’s put things right. 3/ We know they won’t respect these conditions, but we’ll protect ourselves behind that if the epidemic resumes. I’m sorry, but that’s not a reason. If you know that it won’t happen, don’t impose rules that cannot be respected or that you know will not be respected, because that only diminishes the credibility of the State you represent. It is necessary to rectify the situation, and very quickly to give visibility to all those who could be concerned by holidays in Tunisia, whether they are TREs or simply tourists, because due to lack of visibility, their holidays will be scheduled elsewhere. With good ears. * Former CEO of Tunisie Tradenet and former adviser to several ministers.

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

June 13, 2020: Institut Pasteur of Tunis: Towards a new scientific feat in the face of COVID-19

With the reopening of the borders on 27 June 2020, Tunisia is preparing to take up a new challenge in the health crisis: the possible incoming cases of COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) which, it should be remembered, is the one and only source of contamination in Tunisia. Should we be concerned about this? Is there a risk of the virus spreading again in Tunisia? For the director general of the Pasteur Institute of Tunis, Hechmi Louzir, few dangers await us despite the forthcoming reopening of borders. Tunisia, he explains in an interview with the TAP agency published on Saturday, June 13, 2020, has left the danger zone thanks to the health measures that have been applied.

“We are able to ensure that COVID-19 has been controlled in Tunisia, knowing that I followed the work of the commission to fight against the new coronavirus,” he said. The Director General also indicated that the Pasteur Institute will develop a specific test that will detect antibodies capable of combating SARS-CoV-2. “It will soon be ready for use,”he said. Returning to the thorny issue of reopening borders, Hichem Louzir recalled that Tunisia has taken a range of measures to deal with the disease, in order to prevent its spread. “The dangers are minimal, knowing that the authorities have already taken all the necessary measures to welcome travellers,”he reiterated. The director general of Institut Pasteur said no fewer than 12 clinical trials have been launched in the United States to test a vaccine against COVID-19. Some of the experiments have reached their final phase of evaluating the vaccine’s effectiveness on volunteer patients. “A vaccine could be introduced between late 2020 and early 2021”, he said.

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

June 14, 2020: Return of festivals and cultural and artistic events starting July 15, 2020

This return will be carried out with an ordinary reception capacity while ensuring that the necessary preventive measures are applied according to a specific health protocol. After evaluation of the results of the situation of the COVID-19 epidemic in Tunisia by the Ministry of Public Health, the scientific committee responsible for monitoring the spread of the coronavirus and the observatory of new and emerging diseases, the Ministry of Cultural Affairs announced the return of festivals and cultural and artistic events in open spaces from 15 July 2020. This return mentioned the ministry will be ensured with a regular capacity of reception while ensuring the application of the necessary preventive measures according to a specific health protocol for festivals and artistic and cultural events which will be published during the next week.

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

June 15, 2020: Fight against Covid-19: Elyès Fakhfakh very satisfied

In an interview given simultaneously to Radio Mosaïque FM and the Attessa television channel on Sunday 14 June 2020, the head of government, Elyès Fakhfakh, welcomed the prowess achieved by Tunisia in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Indeed, “Tunisia has defeated the pandemic of the new coronavirus. It came out of this ordeal with little damage”, unlike many other countries. This is an interview-balance sheet of the action of the government and various public bodies concerning COVID-19, which interview coincides with the end of the targeted containment period. The head of government believes that Tunisia’s success is to be put at the service of “national unity”, calling on citizens to preserve this positive record by adopting the health prevention and physical distancing measures put in place by the government.

“At the peak of the pandemic, the tracing of citizens’ movements via mobile telephony has shown that more than 80% of Tunisians have respected the compulsory confinement”, he said. It was a critical health situation, “but one that was nevertheless under control, which enabled the country to avoid any health or safety slippage”, Elyès Fakhfakh added. Regarding the reopening of Tunisia’s borders and airspace, which is expected to take place on 27 June 2020, the head of government stressed that this is one of several decisions taken by the government. But for him, “closing as well as reopening is a bold and responsible decision… The state is prepared for all possible scenarios, including a second wave of the pandemic, which is unlikely”.

What about the coalition government?
Concerning the parties that make up his government, and contrary to what is said here and there, Fakhfakh believes that this “coalition is successful, and it represents all political currents and reflects real national unity”; a success that is “perfectly reflected in the laws and decrees recently promulgated”. Moreover, when one asks him what he makes of the appeal of Rached Ghannouchi, president of the Ennahdha party but also of the Assembly of People’s Representatives, who wants a recasting and enlargement of the coalition, Fakhfakh assures that this is only possible if the coalition in place fails. For the moment, the head of government believes that this is not the case, “all the more so as it has enjoyed the confidence of at least 129 deputies (out of 217, editor’s note), which is sufficient”.

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

June 15, 2020: US$ 175 Million World Bank Budget Support to Tunisia

The World Bank has just approved $175 million in budget support to help Tunisia cope with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). The agreement relating to this support, allocated under the “Emergency and Development Policy Support Operation for Resilience and Recovery”, was signed on Monday 15 June 2020. According to a statement by the Bank, this financing is part of a major coordinated international support programme to help Tunisia manage the coronavirus crisis, to which the World Bank, the German KfW Bank, the French Development Agency (AFD), the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the African Development Bank are contributing. It has also been closely coordinated with the macro-financial assistance provided by the European Union.

The financial envelope of the joint operation will amount to approximately $700 million in 2020. “This crisis poses a considerable challenge for Tunisia, but also offers an opportunity to redefine its position in the global economy by creating more favourable conditions for investment and job creation in the private sector,”said Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa. Countries that implement difficult reforms succeed in boosting economic growth and accelerating recovery. If its leaders are resolute, Tunisia is fully capable of undertaking these reforms. This international support aims to help Tunisia protect vulnerable businesses and households from the effects of the COVID-19 crisis and to carry out key economic reforms to enable Tunisia to improve its post-crisis recovery potential and competitiveness in a context that is leading countries to rethink global value and distribution chains.

This is an unprecedented budgetary support that has required several months of coordination between partners,”said Slim Azzabi, Tunisian Minister of Development, Investment and International Cooperation. The reforms provided for in this programme represent an investment in the future: they are aimed at strengthening social cohesion between generations and between regions, improving the business climate, particularly with regard to digitisation and interoperability, and promoting good governance of public enterprises”. The World Bank’s contribution to joint budget support will focus on three interrelated areas of the Tunisian government’s reform agenda: accelerating social protection reforms and financial inclusion, fostering private sector recovery by modernizing port operations and mobilizing private financing for renewable energy production, and improving the transparency and performance of public enterprises.

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