June 16 – 19, 2020 | Press Review

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Photo: John S. on Flickr

June 19, 2020: Impact of COVID-19 on industrial activity in Tunisia in 2020

Industrial activity will decline by 30% in 2020. The sectors most affected by the impact of the coronavirus crisis are aeronautics and automotive components”. This is what the Minister of Industry and SMEs, Salah Ben Youssef, indicated on Friday. “The impacts of the epidemic of COVID-19 will be further evaluated in the next 6 months,” he said. The minister noted that the forecasts expect a decline in growth of 6.8% instead of a rate of 4.6%. And “it could be more”. Ben Youssef also believes that many companies have been affected by the health crisis. About 270,000 jobs are threatened, he said, in this context. And this during the first meeting of the steering committee “Imtiaz”. He added that the industrial sector has been impacted because of the decline in exports, blockages in supply networks in addition to the decline in demand in the textile sector, as an example.

As a reminder, a study prepared with the assistance of UNDP, presented last Wednesday, has already warned against the increase in the number of unemployed in Tunisia. Their number could reach this year 275 thousand people, according to the study. It forecasts a drop in economic growth of 4.4%. The Minister of Development and International Cooperation, Mohamed Selim Azzabi, had already stated that this decline could reach 6 or 7% this year. And this is within the framework of the supplementary finance law that will be presented by the government to parliament in the coming weeks. The World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, Ferid Belhaj, in reaction to the approval by the WB of the $175 million budget support to Tunisia, indicated that “the crisis poses major challenges. But it also provides an opportunity for Tunisia to reposition itself in the global economy. This will be achieved by improving the investment climate and creating jobs in the private sector.

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

June 19, 2020: Covid-19: Tunisia will open its borders by withholding its penny

While Tunisia seems to have defeated the COVID-19 pandemic and is preparing to reopen its borders from 27 June, after four months of self-containment, to revive its economy, especially its tourism, the next few days are likely to be difficult with a number of cases that will increase. Let us hope that we do not have to close the borders again and return to square one. The latest decisions taken by the Tunisian government to save the tourist season will not have finally met the expectations of hoteliers, who do not understand the choice of drastic conditions demanded of tourists who would come “to a safe country”, nor of Tunisians living abroad, who are once again faced with “double standards” compared to foreign visitors, even though they were planning to return to help their country in a difficult situation. Half measures do not satisfy everyone The decisions are neither totally scientific, because the coronavirus should not behave differently in front of a foreign visitor or a Tunisian returning from a foreign country, nor totally economic because it does not respond to the competition imposed by other tourist countries such as Greece. In the end, half-measures can only lead to disappointment for everyone. Let’s make it clear that the tourist season for this summer is highly compromised and the return of Tunisians too. The arrival of our Algerian friends, who are used to saving our tourism every time European tourists become scarce, is also compromised by a very worrying situation over the last few days in Algiers and Blida with a sudden increase in the hospitalisation of patients suffering from COVID-19 causing a start of saturation of hospital services, without however registering serious cases requiring resuscitation.

All epidemiological indicators seem to indicate an increase in cases in Africa during this period, which could lead to a second more virulent wave during the next winter period. The seasonality of COVID-19 seems to be confirmed with a decrease in its virulence during hot seasons, even if, it must be noted, the excessive use of air conditioning in the Gulf countries has had the opposite effect. We cannot always bet on our lucky star Let’s say it clearly, nobody holds the truth nor the solution to revive tourism but so far, if Tunisia has succeeded it is mainly through clear communication with decisions accepted by all. We should therefore either bet on our lucky star and open the borders with a test at the airport for all and basta, or leave our borders closed until the vaccine arrives at the end of the year … if all goes well, scenario hardly acceptable because it would be fatal for the economy, already in a very bad way, that’s an understatement. In the meantime, the next few days are likely to be difficult with the number of cases increasing. Let us hope that we do not have to close the borders again and go back to square one.

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

June 18, 2020: Tunisian Health Minister Warns of New Wave of Coronavirus

Tunis, Tunisia, June 17 (Infosplusgabon) – The threat of further spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) after the reopening of borders is still present in Tunisia, Tunisian Health Minister Abdelatif Mekki has warned. Speaking at a conference on Tuesday in Tunis, Mekki added that Tunisia is likely to register a new wave of the coronavirus like several other countries, stressing the need for people to respect preventive measures, including social distancing and the wearing of masks. For his part, the director of the Pasteur Institute of Tunis, Hechimi Ouazir,i estimated, in a statement made Tuesday, that the collective immunity against the virus in Tunisia is still very low, specifying that a study conducted by the National Observatory of New and Emerging Diseases indicates that the number of people who have immunity does not exceed 9%. Among students who have undergone rapid tests this percentage is 0.5%, while the rate, to create herd immunity, must reach 50 to 60%, he said, stressing the need to respect preventive measures. Tunisia recorded on Monday 14 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, after eight days without any new cases, it is recalled.

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June 18, 2020; Tunisia abandons from this Thursday the confinement in hotels for returnees

As of Thursday 18 June, Tunisia is abandoning the compulsory confinement of repatriated Tunisians in hotels and replacing it with an obligation for returnees “to observe a 14-day period of self-isolation, while complying with preventive measures”. Evacuation flights will resume today, with the obligation for returnees “to present a negative PCR test on COVID-19, carried out no more than 72 hours before arrival at the Tunisian borders”. The authorities have also decreed “measures to accompany the access of tourists to the national territory as of 27 June, the date of the reopening of the borders, including the presentation of a 72-hour PCR test on arrival”. Tourists will have to fill out a health form at the airport in their country of residence. He will be subjected to a temperature test on arrival in Tunis and will have to stay in a hotel that respects the health protocol.

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

June 17, 2020: COVID-19: a new case of death reported in Tunisia

A new case of death caused by the new coronavirus COVID-19 has just been declared in Tunisia this Wednesday, June 17, 2020. It concerns a woman admitted in the intensive care unit at the Farhat Hached University Hospital in Sousse. The death toll rose to 50. The deceased, who is 68 years old, recently returned to Tunisia.

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June 17, 2020: COVID-19 in Tunisia: imminent return or a page turned?

After a calming down and a certain relief as for the control of the sanitary situation, linked to COVID-19 in Tunisia, worries and concerns take over again. That is to say that a certain fear is observed among a large part of the experts, but also among citizens about a new epidemic wave in Tunisia. Between the opening of the borders and the cancellation of compulsory isolation, apprehension is palpable. After a period of absence of COVID-19 contamination, and a few rare imported cases of infection, Tunisia has completed the various phases of targeted containment and is preparing for a total return to normal life. It must be said that the containment imposed by the State to limit the spread of the virus has already had considerable economic and social impacts, not to mention the rather bleak picture of the national economy, well before this international crisis. However, with the gradual return to normalcy and the many repatriation flights, cases of contamination are beginning to reappear, especially among people coming from abroad. Moreover, the balance sheet of the Ministry of Health announced, yesterday Tuesday, June 16, 2020, reports fifteen new contaminations with COVID-19, all imported. Today, there are three new imported contaminations and a new death in Sousse.

In this context, the Minister of Health, Abdellatif Mekki, expressed his concern about the evolution of the pandemic situation in Tunisia, especially as the country reopens its borders from 27 June this year. “The danger of coronavirus remains present, strongly, especially with the reopening of borders and the resurgence of the pandemic in several countries,” he said on his personal Facebook account. The fear is twofold, especially since many people are not complying with the measures,” he added. Indeed, the government has announced that repatriated Tunisians will have to apply self-isolation measures for 14 days. The government has suspended quarantine measures in hotels at the expense of the returnees. In anticipation of the opening of air space and land and sea borders on 27 June, the government has also decided that tourists who have scheduled stays in Tunisia will also have to present negative results of a PCR test carried out no later than 72 hours before their travel date. Tourists will also be required to fill in a health questionnaire before leaving their country of origin and will be subject to temperature tests at the airport.

Several doctors and other health experts are therefore reluctant to open borders completely, while at the same time cancelling the compulsory isolation measures. And although a series of measures have been taken, including the presentation of a document certifying that they have undergone a test 72 hours before their arrival and that the result is negative, vigilance is still required. “The solution remains in the hands of citizens and depends on their conscience. All those who violate the measures of self-isolation will be prosecuted. In the event of serious breaches, the compulsory quarantine measure will be re-imposed,” said the chairman of the containment commission within the Ministry of Health, Mohamed Rabhi, in a media statement. This fear is quite legitimate, since a few days ago, a citizen in compulsory isolation escaped from the hotel, where she was in quarantine, to attend a wedding. The most serious part of this story is that the person in question was aware that she was a carrier of the virus.

In any case, the cancellation of compulsory isolation amounts to the lack of means of the State, which can no longer assume the costs of accommodation. Pressure from hoteliers and economic constraints mean that the State is no longer in a position to bear all the costs of this preventive measure, especially as the number of persons to be cared for will be much greater with the reopening of borders. In any event, Tunisia has so far succeeded in controlling the COVID-19 virus, with all the strategies adopted. The return to the ordinary pace must be well studied. While economic recovery is important and repairing the economic and social repercussions of the crisis is inevitable, however, this recovery must not be to the detriment of the health of Tunisians, at the risk of ending up in a situation that has been avoided thanks to a titanic effort. Containment is certainly not the solution, given the country’s situation, but prevention is better than cure, especially with the current state of the health system.

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