July 02 – 04, 2020 | Press Review

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Photo: John S. on Flickr

July 04, 2020: Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia… When COVID-19 prevents the return to the country

For them, summer is the season of return to their homeland. The epidemic has forced them to reconsider their habits and question their relationship to the “bled”. “Our holidays? It was the trip to the hinterland. Our holidays, it was even the trip more than the holidays…” It’s a sketch by Jamel Debbouze in which many children of immigrants could recognize themselves. Time has passed since those childhood memories, trunks have disappeared from car roofs, and the price of plane tickets has gone down. But for many, returning home during the summer remains a ritual they did not deviate from… until the COVID-19 crisis. On 1 July, uncertainty still reigned: air and sea links between France and Morocco or Algeria were still suspended, with mandatory quarantine on arrival in Tunisia. “If I don’t leave, it will be painful,” admits Faouzi, a doctor in Paris who travels to Tunisia every year. The government decreed that arrivals had to be isolated for a week in a hotel, at their own expense, before being tested. The problem is that people who tested negative turned out to be positive and caused a cluster. Now we’re talking about a 14-day isolation. It’s not worth it”.

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

July 03, 2020: COVID-19: Lighter Measures for Tunisians Returning from Abroad

Children under the age of 12 are no longer obliged to present the results of the coronavirus screening test (RT-PCR), announced the presidency of the government, in a press release published this Friday, July 3, 2020. Tunisians residing abroad and their spouses, Tunisian or foreign, having a place of residence in Tunisia, will no longer have to present the results of the RT-PCR screening test if they come from a country where this test is difficult to carry out or from a country with an average spread of the coronavirus. The only condition maintained is mandatory confinement for 10 days, at their own expense, in one of the centers made available by the State, the list of which will be published on the sites of Tunisian embassies and consulates abroad. But visitors must also undertake to respect the protection measures of others: physical distance, protective mask, disinfectant gel… In case of justified reason, the TREs may not present an RT-PCR screening test but they must obtain the prior agreement of the Ministry of Health, specifies the press release of the Presidency of the Government. In addition, children under the age of 12 returning from countries with a high spread of the virus are required to perform self-isolation with a parent, instead of a mandatory period of confinement. The new epidemic classification announced by the Observatory of New and Emerging Diseases (ONME) will be taken into consideration when applying containment measures 24 hours after its publication.

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

July 02, 2020: Tunisia eager to receive North African tourists

The WHO said that Tunisia is one of the few countries in the world with only sporadic cases, commonly referred to in Tunisia as “imported” cases, reported in particular by Tunisian nationals working in the Gulf. Only one local case has been recorded since 20 May. The source of contamination is known. The measure to open the borders has objectively followed this success despite the sometimes excessive caution of the scientific committee. Travel to and from abroad is, however, treated on a case-by-case basis, depending on the control of the pandemic. Special attention has been announced for the opening of land borders, for two reasons. On the one hand, Algerians and Libyans are the first two nationalities coming to Tunisia, especially after the revolution of January 14, 2011. The Algerians are largely in the lead with nearly three million tourists in 2019, followed by the Libyans with 1.6 million entries. Algerians have regularly saved the tourist season during lean years, especially in 2015, the year of the rise of terrorist attacks in Tunisia. 1.6 million Algerians defied terrorism and came to spend their holidays in Tunisia, offering a breath of fresh air to a dying industry. And they have continued to do so ever since.

The other factor requiring special attention from the Tunisian authorities is to control the spread of the virus, with a massive flow that can exceed 10,000 passages a day from Libya and Algeria. The Tunisians are therefore trying to be effective in reviving their national economy by welcoming Algerians and Libyans, while being cautious in controlling the spread of COVID-19. This equation may be impossible to solve. Indeed, and by way of example, the Tunisian authorities cannot ask for PCR tests on land borders, which are too expensive and impossible to carry out for neighbours travelling in large families. The cost of the tests is likely to exceed the cost of the stay in Tunisia. Nevertheless, the health situation in Algeria urges Tunisians to be cautious, especially since the authorities in the neighbouring country have not deigned to reopen their borders, even though the European Union has declared that it accepts Algerians on Schengen territory. Averages of between 200 and 300 contaminations have been recorded in Algeria over the last few days. Caution is therefore called for.

A breath of Oxygen
Apart from these two special cases of land borders, foreign countries have been classified into three categories, green, orange and red. Countries in the “green” zone are those that have controlled the pandemic. No conditions are required of residents of these countries who come to Tunisia. Italy and Germany are on this list. Residents from the “orange” zone countries, on the other hand, are required to present a negative PCR test, dating from 72 hours ago, and to fulfil a commitment to observe a 14-day voluntary confinement at home. Countries such as France and Morocco fall into this category. Travellers from countries in the “red” zone must have a negative PCR test and a reservation in a containment hotel for one week, at the passenger’s expense. A second PCR test is planned at the end of this confinement. If it proves to be negative, the tourist can spend the second week of confinement at home.
Tunisia is certainly struggling to get its economy out of the crisis. But this is not easy since its European partners are also living in the midst of a crisis. The recession is widespread. Demand is therefore weak and there is less demand for Tunisian products. The crisis is not only affecting the tourism sector. Even the exporting industries are struggling to regain their usual share of the European market, especially as the old continent is trying to save, first, the countries of the European Union, such as Portugal or Greece. The salvation should therefore come from Algeria and Libya. The equation seems difficult to solve.

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

July 02, 2020: Tunisia has lost 2 years of growth in the field of electronic banking

The COVID-19 pandemic caused Tunisia to lose two years of growth in terms of electronic banking to reach the 2018 level, reveals a study conducted by Monétique Tunisie on the impact on withdrawals, VSE payments and e-commerce in Tunisia during the period March-May 2020. Thus, the volume of electronic banking transactions reached 2.9 billion dinars, during the confinement, almost the same level of the period from March to May 2018 (2.8 billion dinars), while the expected figure was 4 billion dinars. According to this study conducted in collaboration with the consulting firm Quantylix and transmitted Thursday to the TAP Agency, this health crisis has led to a decline of about 40% of bank withdrawals, with a strong affluence during the week preceding the confinement. In addition, a change in behavior in terms of withdrawals following the abolition of interchange fees has been observed, notes the same source, stressing that this measure has prompted Tunisians to no longer favor withdrawals from ATMs of their banks.

A significant slowdown in local payment activity (on Eftpos terminals) has also been recorded, with a drop of around 75%, a return to the 2016 level, despite the incentive measures, namely the abolition of commissions paid by merchants for purchases below 100d. With regard to e-commerce, the study revealed a relative stability in this sector despite the perception of a change in the behaviour of Tunisians favouring online purchases.
In reality, there has been a substitution between the tourism sector (air transport/hoteling/travel agencies) which has experienced a significant decline and other activities, mainly telephone recharge and bill payments. According to Khaled Bettaieb, Managing Director of Monétique Tunisie, this study will serve as a basis for further analysis in order to better predict the recovery and the avenues to be considered in order to accelerate the growth of the electronic banking sector, vital to Decashing and the creation of value in the digital age.

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