August 08 – 11, 2020 | Press Review

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Photo: John S. on Flickr

August 11, 2020: Tunisian tourism continues its descent into the underworld

The status of the first African country to have put an end to the confinement and the only country in the Maghreb still admitted without restrictions within the European Union does not benefit the Tunisian tourism sector. According to the latest estimates of the Tunisian Central Bank (BCT), the country of jasmine lost 1.9 million visitors during the second quarter of 2020, compared to the same period last year. This situation, stresses the issuing institute, could worsen soon if the situation does not change. Moreover, the Central Bank of Tunisia (BCT) has pointed out that the “hotel and restaurant” branch has experienced a dizzying fall. This is related to the historic 99.8% drop (in quarterly variation) in the number of non-residents’ entries during the said quarter against a -22.0% drop in the first quarter of the current year. Concerning transport services, the document reveals that the decline is expected to be accentuated in the second quarter with the virtual absence of flights and air passengers and the fall in both rail and maritime transport indicators.

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

August 11, 2020: U.S. support offer to Tunisian hotels and restaurants

The Tunisian Federation of Tourist Restaurants (FTRT) and the Tunisian Federation of Hotels (FTH) have signed a collaboration agreement with the American agency for international development US AID. The signing ceremony was held at the headquarters of the American agency in Tunis in the presence of Dorra Miled, treasurer of the FTH, and Sodok Kouka, president of the FTRT, and Danilo Cruz-De paula, representative of US AID in Tunis. The agreement, which is part of a project initiated by US AID entitled “Tunisia Jobs, Business success”, aims at supporting tourism companies during the post-Covid period and at increasing their competitiveness notably through the enhancement of jobs in the sector, the promotion of employment and vocational training. Funded by the US agency for and implemented by Chemonics International on behalf of the US AID, this project is in fact a five-year programme aimed at creating jobs in Tunisia, increasing the effectiveness of vocational training and staff development and ensuring that the programme meets the needs of the catering and hotel sectors. It also aims to establish a decision-making and regulatory environment conducive to the competitiveness of Tunisian enterprises. In its numerous interventions in Tunisia, the US AID has given particular attention to the tourism sector because of its strong economic and social content, underlines the head of the American agency.

The main objective of the collaboration agreement signed is to improve the preparedness of the restaurant and hotel sector so that it can resume its activities, boost its operations and bounce back after the crisis linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. To do so, the agreement has three main thrusts: working with the FTH and FTRT to develop and deploy an awareness and training program for the implementation of a health protocol specific to the COVID-19 pandemic, combining face-to-face and online training tools; Facilitating access by the FTH and FTRT to the support actions developed by Jobs to address the Covid-19 pandemic, such as offering technical assistance and/or grants to members of federations that meet the eligibility criteria of Jobs; assisting FTH and FTRT members to facilitate their access to innovative technological solutions to address the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In this regard, it was agreed to design and develop, together with FTH and FTRT, a series of training seminars and workshops on the health protocol to be organized in the main tourist sites of the country, to establish a working group with FTH and FTRT and to provide technical inputs to the content of the training. The same agreement stipulates the commitment of US AID to make available to FTRT and FTH members all necessary information on Tunisia Jobs support programmes, including grant programmes. For eligible companies, this may include equipment related to financial support, human resource development, improvement of the quality of services.

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

August 11, 2020: Tunis hosts an international forum on the impact of coronavirus on women

The work of the international forum on “Sustainable Development Goals (SDOs) from a gender perspective: the priorities of Tunisia after the COVID-19 pandemic” started on Monday, August 10 in Tunis at the initiative of the Ministry of Women, Family, Children and Seniors with the participation of representatives of several countries, international and national organizations, experts in various fields and representatives of public structures and components of civil society. On the first day of this forum (which is held on 10, 11 and 12 August), as part of the celebration of National Women’s Day, corresponding to 13 August each year, discussion circles were organized to shed light on several issues, including combating violence against women, digitalization and innovation in the service of equality, and DOs and their contribution to enshrining gender equality. During the first workshop which focused on the difficulties encountered by women during general health confinement in Tunisia due to domestic violence, Ahlam Bouserwal, coordinator of the UN/Women programme, stressed that violence has increased significantly during this period with more than 4000 cases of violence against women and children.

Representatives of associations that took part in the meeting, including the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women, said that the justice system has not paid attention to this phenomenon and that the courts and several structures in charge of social affairs have been closed, especially during the first quarantine period. With regard to the health aspect, specialists considered that the abused woman has not been taken care of, particularly in certain regions of the interior which still lack certain health facilities, calling for the reimbursement of the costs of care spent by the victims. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs recorded, in the period from the beginning of the confinement until 3 May 2020, approximately 6,700 calls on the 1899 green line for listening, counselling and guidance for women and children victims of violence, distributed among 134 physical violence, 1,462 psychological violence and 329 sexual violence, 763 economic violence, 15 institutional violence and 1,624 verbal violence, as well as 448 notices for children at risk and 38 notices for the elderly. The first day of the forum includes the work of the sectoral committees, through the mobilization of representatives of government structures, the private sector and civil society organizations, with the participation of intergovernmental international cooperation agencies, to formulate recommendations calling for gender mainstreaming in development plans, including short-term measures to be taken.

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

August 10, 2020: Negative PCR test soon mandatory for passengers from green countries

A COVID-19 screening test could now be required for passengers arriving from countries on the green list. This was announced by Nissaf Ben Alaya, director of the National Observatory of New and Emerging Diseases (NONMNE) on Monday 10 August 2020. In a statement granted to the TAP news agency, Ben Alaya said she will present this proposal to the Minister of Health in the day-to-day management government, Habib Kchaou at a meeting scheduled for tomorrow Tuesday. The same proposal will subsequently be submitted to the presidency of the government for consideration. The new measure comes in the face of an upsurge in local contamination among people who have frequented the passengers in question and who have not respected the self-containment and preventive measures against COVID-19. It should be noted that a country classified as green means that containment is not imposed on passengers from that country and that no negative PCR test is required. It should be noted that, according to the Ministry of Health, the State was no longer able to cover the cost of confinement for Tunisian citizens and that from now on, self-isolation for returnees has been set at fourteen days. They will, all the same, be subject to medical monitoring by the health authorities.

All Tunisian nationals and tourists coming from abroad (except from the green zones) will also be required to present a negative COVID-19 test. However, children under 12 years of age as well as Tunisians from countries classified red and orange and who are unable to obtain a PCR test (which must be presented at the airport on their return to the country) are exempt from this test, which can now be carried out 120 hours in advance (before the date of entry into Tunisia) instead of 72 hours. The persons in question will also be asked to fill out a downloadable form on a Ministry of Health application to provide data on their health status. In addition, all preventive measures such as the wearing of respiratory protection masks and social distancing will have to be respected. An updated official report shows that there are 1,697 confirmed COVID-19 cases spread over the 24 governorates. In addition to 51 deaths, 1,263 recoveries have been recorded nationwide.

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

August 10, 2020: Italy starts repatriation of Tunisian migrants

From this Monday, 10 August, Italy will start sending back to their country Tunisian migrants who arrived illegally. The COVID-19 crisis has hit the Tunisian economy hard and massive arrivals have occurred in recent months: more than 4,000 Tunisians reached the Italian coast in July. Tension remains cordial but palpable between Tunis and Rome on the subject of clandestine migration. The Italian Foreign Minister, Luigi Di Maio, said on 6 August in a Facebook statement that “Tunisia being considered a safe country and not a country at war”, in his words, “repatriations” of Tunisian clandestine migrants arriving on illegal boats will start as of Monday 10 August at a rate of 80 people per week, in agreement with the Tunisian authorities. On the Tunisian side, the National Guard of the city of Mahdia, one of the main departure points for candidates for exile, has announced a new security strategy with the intelligence services to further target smuggling networks. From 6 to 8 August, authorities arrested nearly 23 smugglers in the area. Almost every month, more than 100 arrests are made and nearly 50 attempts at illegal immigration are aborted by the authorities according to official figures, with a sharp increase in July. President Kais Saied, however, had nuanced the security approach by opting for a discourse on “collective” responsibility in the face of immigration. He spoke of a “Tunisian-Tunisian” problem, denouncing the inability of the political class to solve the country’s socio-economic problems since the revolution.

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

August 09, 2020: Negative tests for 2500 employees at Tunis-Carthage Airport

Dr. Samir Abdelmoumen, member of the scientific commission for the fight against coronavirus has indicated in a post on his Facebook page that the screening tests for coronavirus of 2500 employees of the Tunis-Carthage airport carried out between Tuesday and Saturday were all negative. The doctor called for the need to respect the protective measures against coronavirus and especially the barrier gestures including physical distancing and wearing protective masks. He noted that the 26 contaminated employees will be cured within the next ten days if the health protocol is applied. According to him Tunisia does not suffer a second wave COVID-19. We have a resumption of the propagation in a linear and non exponential way, as in the first wave the virus keeps a certain contagiousness certainly but the virulence is not the same anymore and that is a worldwide certainty.

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

August 09, 2020: COVID+ patient escapes from Djerba quarantine centre to Tabarka

A sick man who returned from Libya with the Covid virus escaped from a quarantine centre in Djerba and travelled by public transport to the Jendouba governorate in his home village, where he met family and friends at a local café. He even went on an excursion to Tabarka with his family members. The patient was found and sent to the COVID+ centre in Monastir, while waiting for measures to be taken for those who had been in contact with him.

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

August 08, 2020: New preventive measures in Gabes against the COVID-19 including the cancellation of sporting and cultural events

Several new measures related to the organization of wedding rallies in the governorate of Gabes were announced on Friday to prevent the arrival of a second wave of the Corona virus after the registration of local infections, including a limited presence of guests limited to 10 people with the bride and groom at ceremonies held in the communes and the cancellation of all weddings that are held in theaters without permission. According to the TAP news agency, the new package was adopted at a working session held Friday at the governorate headquarters under the supervision of the region’s governor, Mongi Thameur, in the presence of a group of political figures from the health sector. Among the decisions was the need for approved rooms to also respect health protocol and physical distance. The same source pointed out that to this end, a joint regional committee has been formed comprising the various parties to ensure compliance with this procedure and intervene to implement the law where necessary. Among the decisions adopted at the meeting were also the cancellation of all beach events of a cultural and sporting nature that would attract a large audience and the restriction of regular activities, as well as the cancellation of all artistic performances at festivals that require significant public participation, whether indoors or in open spaces. With regard to other festival performances, the new procedures stressed the need to make them subject to an authorisation obtained after submitting an application to the joint regional committee set up for this purpose. With regard to economic and commercial activities, weekly markets, large commercial spaces, cafés and restaurants, it was decided to hold a working session for evaluation and the taking of appropriate measures, in accordance with the approved health protocol.

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

August 08, 2020: Possible second wave and mask requirement: Strict enforcement to avoid the worst

After a first wave, can citizens be made aware again of the seriousness of the situation and the extreme importance of complying with health provisions? Dr Ben Khelil believes that we have no choice but to do so in view of the deteriorating epidemiological situation. For the authorities, as for the citizens, the situation was fairly predictable. Tunisia, a country that decided to reopen its borders on 27 June in order to save its economy and tourism sector, is facing enormous epidemiological risks: an increase in the number of local cases of coronavirus, the reappearance of chains of transmission of the virus and the discovery of an outbreak at the country’s main airport, all in the face of a blatant and dangerous reluctance to apply barrier measures and health protocols. Faced with this situation, which is deteriorating day after day, if we analyse the epidemiological assessments updated daily by the health authorities, and which remind us of the beginnings of the first wave of contamination in Tunisia, the authorities could not remain idle. But we still have to succeed in making the population aware again of the dangerousness of the situation as long as the strategy based on fear no longer seems to be working. Thus, only the rigorous application of the law could avoid the worst scenario of a generalization of the contamination on Tunisian soil and an overflow of the hospital system.

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

August 08, 2020: Nissaf Ben Alaya: The epidemic situation in Kairouan is dangerous

The director of the National Observatory of New and Emerging Diseases (NONMNE), Nissaf Ben Alaya, returned on Saturday, August 8, 2020, on the epidemic situation in Kairouan. Describing the situation as “dangerous”, the director of the NMNO reiterated the importance of respecting the prevention protocol in order to avoid the spread of the virus again. After the multiplication of cases of local contaminations in Kairouan, the regional health directorate launched, on Wednesday August 5, a screening campaign targeting the population presenting the most frequent symptoms of COVID-19. According to the latest report of the Ministry of Health on the evolution of the epidemic situation in Tunisia, the governorate of Kairouan had, until August 7, 41 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 5 local. The number of COVID+ people in Tunisia amounts to 1,656 cases out of a total of 102,041 screenings carried out since the beginning of the pandemic. There are 1,251 recovered persons, 354 active contaminations – treated in centres set up for this purpose – and 51 deaths. Nissaf Ben Alaya said in a statement to Jawhara FM that the newly identified COVID+ cases were contaminated from the same source, a person from a green-listed country. She added, in this regard, that two families of eight and seven members currently had COVID+ cases. The director of the NMNO also said the scientific committee in charge of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic will propose the obligation to carry out PCR tests for all persons wishing to return to Tunisian soil, regardless of the country of origin, stressing the need to be more rigorous at the borders.

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