November 16 – 22, 2020 | Tunisia Press Review

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Photo: John S. on Flickr

November 21, 2020

COVID-19: The situation remains serious

The head of government, Hichem Mechichi assured, this Saturday, during his chairmanship of the governors’ meeting, that the epidemiological situation in the different parts of the country remains very serious, given all the indicators that are in the red regarding new contaminations and mortality.

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

Ras Jdir: Tunisian man arrested for providing false PCR test to security guards

Security units deployed at the border post of Ras Jdir in the delegation of Ben Guerdane (Governorate of Medenine) proceeded last Thursday to the arrest of a Tunisian citizen who presented a false RT PCR test in order to cross the Libyan borders. This individual would be contaminated by the new coronavirus COVID-19.

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

Artists in open sit-in at the Cité de la Culture

Artists began, Friday, an open sit-in at the Cité de la Culture in Tunis. They claim the continuation of cultural and artistic activities. For should we still remember it? Currently, all cultural activities are at a standstill because of the alarming results of COVID-19.

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

Tunisia spends less money on health spending” according to Oxfam

According to the Commitment to Inequality Reduction Index (CIRI), Tunisia ranks 48th out of 158 countries evaluated. The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted a rise in glaring inequalities, particularly in health and education spending.

[…] The index ranks Tunisia 94th in terms of public service expenditure. Indeed, between 2011 and 2019, spending on health has suffered a dizzying drop. It fell from 6.6% to 5%. As far as health expenditure is concerned, Tunisia is ranked at the bottom of the table, in 146th place. This means that it is one of the 13 worst countries in this field.

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

Cured ten days after having tested positive to COVID-19, a citizen in Sfax is refused supporting documents

Aïda Bejaoui, a citizen who contracted the corona virus and then recovered, was refused documents from the regional health department in Sfax to assert her rights after an absence of ten days from work, corresponding to the period of her confinement at home.

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

COVID-19 is now classified as an occupational disease in Tunisia

The presidency of the government has published the decision to include COVID-19 contamination in the list of occupational diseases of public health workers in the Official Journal of the Republic of Tunisia (JORT).

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

November 20, 2020

COVID-19: Banks granted 2 billion dinars in support credits to companies

Speaking on Friday at a hearing session with members of the Finance and Planning Commission under the ARP, the president of the Tunisian Professional Association of Banks and Financial Institutions (APTBEF), Mohamed Agreb said that this envelope has been mobilized in favor of companies outside the line provided by the Tunisian guarantee company (SOTUGAR). “In the framework of the SOTUGAR guarantee line, banks have granted, until the end of October 2020, support credits to companies amounting to 560 million dinars”. He added, returning to the measures against COVID-19.

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

Cyber attacks on the rise during the COVID crisis-19

The Minister of Communication Technologies, Mohamed Fadhel Kraiem, announced on Friday, November 20, 2020, during a hearing session at the Assembly of People’s Representatives, that the number of cyber attacks has increased by 20% during the COVID-19 crisis. The minister, at the same time, explained that several companies have been victims of these cyber attacks and are suffering their consequences to date, noting that cyber security is among the priorities of his ministry.

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

COVID-19: Possible resumption of Friday prayer

A meeting will be held next Wednesday to consider the possibility of resuming Friday prayer. According to the Minister of Religious Affairs, Ahmed Adhoum. The meeting will examine, in this sense, the updated data from the scientific committee for the fight against the new coronavirus. It will decide on a possible resumption of the Friday prayer, if the epidemiological situation permits.

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

19 November, 2020

The Tunisian Institute of Strategic Studies is looking into the social stakes of COVID-19

The social front is in turmoil. It should also be remembered that COVID-19 has only amplified the country’s social vulnerabilities, which have already been strongly impacted by the political and economic fallout from the revolution of 14 January 2011, whether in terms of poverty, social inclusion and solidarity (the Caisses), households, etc. Faced with the resurgence of COVID-19, which, if badly managed by the authorities, could generate panic and even serious social unrest, ITES, in partnership with KAS, is publishing two studies:

  • An emergency note formulating recommendations or operational strategic response measures for the attention of the President of the Republic and, more generally, the decision-maker in order to prevent a scenario of panic or even social unrest;
  • A prospective study detailing all aspects of the social sphere, whether it concerns various forms of aid to the most deprived populations, the social contract, the fight against poverty, social inclusion, the psychosocial impact of the pandemic, i.e. our perception of society, work, death, otherness and living together, etc., while constructing scenarios for the evolution of our social equilibrium up to 2021 and strategic orientations for dealing with it, etc.

The emergency note is structured around 6 strategic orientations or responses:

  1. Defusing the risk of social panic ;
  2. Improving individual and collective resilience to COVID-19 ;
  3. Rebuilding trust between citizens and state institutions ;
  4. Ensuring the resilience and effectiveness of social assistance systems;
  5. Ensuring the sustainability of social security systems;
  6. Communicate effectively.

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

Just published – COVID-19: Tunisia stunned

To date, the national account of the pandemic that has been hitting the country since the beginning of the year has not been written. In its various aspects, first of all health, but also economic, financial, social and psychological. Here is a collective book that fills this gap. Under the title COVID-19: Tunisia stunned (Leaders Edition, 20 co-authors from various disciplines have worked on it. In an absolutely unprecedented exercise.

This collective work, under the direction of Taoufik Habaieb, is the first of its kind published in the international French-speaking world, in terms of its concept, its cross-examination, its testimonies and its live reports from hospitals. In 360 pages, it covers a wide range of themes, dealt with in a breathtaking, quivering style, according to the mood and the imprint of each of the authors.

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

18 November, 2020

Awareness-raising campaign from 19 to 29 November on the dangers of the pandemic

n awareness campaign on the dangers of the coronavirus will be organised from 19 to 29 November at the initiative of the Tunisian scouts in collaboration with the national observatory for new and emerging diseases.

The Tunisian scouts organisation said in a statement released Wednesday that the campaign will cover all regions of the country, saying it targets all citizens and especially youths and children.

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

Influenza vaccine does not produce specific immunity against COVID-19 but it enhances non-specific immune responses against other pathogens.

The influenza vaccine does not produce specific immunity to COVID-19. However, like any vaccine, it could enhance non-specific immune responses against other pathogens, the experts said in a document published Tuesday by the National Authority for Health Evaluation and Accreditation (INEAS) on influenza vaccination in the specific context of the COVID-19 pandemic: interest and priority populations.

In addition to reducing influenza-related mortality and morbidity, vaccination against influenza during the COVID-19 pandemic would, according to experts, minimise the negative impact of influenza and the strain on the health system already overburdened by the health crisis and optimise the consumption of resources.

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

The director of the Institut Pasteur reveals the category of people who will be vaccinated as a priority

The director of the Pasteur Institute, Hichem Louzir, announced today 18 November 2020, at a declaration in Tunisienumérique, that the people most at risk of developing the most severe forms of the disease and those most exposed to the virus will benefit first from the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Older people, those with chronic diseases, as well as medical and paramedical staff, will have access to the VIDC-19 vaccine as a priority,” he said.

At the same time, he explained that it will be necessary to wait until the end of 2021, before reaching group immunity (immunising 60% of the population).

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

Tunisians rather in favour of an anti-COVID vaccine, but mistrust remains

In order to gather the opinion of Tunisians on these issues, Gnetnews went to the Avenue Habib Bourguiba in Tunis. When questioned on the subject, the citizens seem to be torn. Many of them were eagerly awaiting the Coronavirus vaccine. Others instead expressed their mistrust of the drug, which has not yet proven its effectiveness.

However, according to a press release from the pharmaceutical industry that developed the miracle cure for Coronavirus, the Pfizer/BioNtech alliance, the vaccine’s effectiveness in preventing VID19 has been confirmed at 95%, based on complete results of their large-scale clinical trial.

 This argument was quite convincing for this man crossed on the Avenue de Paris. He confided to us that he was tired of waiting for this health crisis to end. “I’m ready to get vaccinated right away if I have to, unlike all those Tunisians who unfortunately have this habit of believing in conspiracy theories and have become very sceptical and paranoid,” he told us.

On the credibility of this drug, he told us that “if the scientific committees of the central pharmacy validate it, and confirm to the citizens that it does not present any danger to health, there will be no more reason to be afraid”.

“As the whole world waits for the end of the trials, and the world powers have already ordered the vaccine, what would Tunisia be reluctant to do? “he adds.

Another passer-by addressed the question of the arrival time of the vaccine against COVID-19. He pointed out that Tunisia, like all Third World countries, will wait its turn among the last ones to finally get some doses. For him, the Arab world does not invest enough in scientific research, so why should its citizens be demanding and distrustful of a vaccine that has been injected by the citizens of the world’s biggest powers?

“For the most reticent, they only have to wait until the end of the Institut Pasteur’s clinical trials to benefit from a Tunisian anti-COVID vaccine, which is safer and more reassuring,” he laughs.

On the other hand, other Tunisians say they are not even afraid of the side effects of such a remedy. “The fact that this vaccine has side effects doesn’t mean it would be harmful for everyone. If out of 40,000 people vaccinated, 1/10 has side effects, we will still be saved from this scourge, which has become the source of all evil in this country…”. The new book, “The New World”, reveals another forty-year old.

For the most wary, like this man who decided to boycott gold and already this vaccine produced “abroad”, it is a drug that was developed in record time. Yet it was deemed capable of putting an end to the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is a very suspicious drug,” he says, confirming that he will never give in to temptation.

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

Dhafer Malouche: When will we finally reach the peak of the COVID-19 epidemic in Tunisia?

So what is the real epidemic situation in Tunisia? and what would be the best model to predict its evolution? Unfortunately, it is difficult to answer these questions due to the lack of reliable indicators published by the Tunisian authorities. The daily number of new contaminations, one of the most important epidemic indicators, is no longer reliable in Tunisia because the daily rate of positive cases is extremely high compared to other countries; it is around 40%. This is a consequence of the screening strategy adopted by the Ministry of Health during the second wave, which consists of only testing people with symptoms of COVID-19. Contact cases and asymptomatic people are no longer tested. The daily number of new infections is clearly underestimated. The actual number could be more than four times the reported number.

In summary, the epidemic situation in Tunisia remains very worrying and is likely to worsen over the next two months. It is urgent that the Tunisian authorities take the measure of the gravity of the situation and take the necessary measures in line with what is being done in the other countries affected by this second wave of COVID-19. Tunisian citizens must be fully involved in the national strategy to combat this epidemic. In the absence of a vaccine, barrier gestures, the wearing of masks, social distancing and all measures to stop the progression of the epidemic must be scrupulously observed. It is the responsibility of the authorities to ensure that they are respected; the survival of several thousand Tunisians is at stake.

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

Reopening of the mosques from next Monday

During a press conference held this Wednesday, November 18, 2020, the Minister of Health, Faouzi Mehdi, announced the reopening of mosques from next Monday. For the time being, only the five daily prayers are allowed, with strict compliance with health measures.

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

Tunisia-Coronavirus: How many doses of vaccine against COVID-19 will Tunisia get?

Tunisia will have a first batch of four million doses, which will enable 20% of Tunisians to benefit from vaccination against COVID-19, said the director of the Pasteur Institute and member of the scientific committee for the fight against the Coronavirus, Hechmi Louzir, today 17 November 2020.

On the airwaves of a private radio station, Louzir stressed that Tunisia will benefit from a good part of its needs free of charge.

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

17 November, 2020

Calls to change the closing time of the cafés

The National Chamber of Category 1 Coffee Shop Owners called on the government to change the closing time of coffee shops to bring it in line with curfew time and to take other measures to benefit the sector, threatening to take all legal measures necessary to ensure the sustainability of the sector.

The chamber added in a statement issued Tuesday that the heads of regional chambers denounced, during their meeting of November 16, 2020, the decision to extend the curfew for three weeks to fight against the pandemic of COVID-19, without adopting measures to support the sector.

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

Curfew: the anger of the intermittent workers in the entertainment industry in Tunisia

Since last October’s announcement of the re-establishment of the night curfew from 8pm to 5am (7pm to 5am at weekends), and more recently the decision to extend it for three weeks, their anger has been growing. “We often think of stars ironically, arguing that their huge salaries have only decreased. But we forget about the security guards, technicians, cooks, waiters and other day workers who come home empty-handed and can no longer feed their children,” an Internet user is outraged.

It was these night workers who first took the initiative to launch the online campaign ‘#Sayyeb_ellil‘, literally “Free the night! ” . A campaign that has been translated on the ground by various rallies, notably in front of the Palace of the Presidency of the Republic, and the Ministries of Health and Culture, so far in vain.

As far as the epidemiological situation is concerned, Tunisia has just officially overtaken neighbouring Algeria, a country about four times more populated than the 12 million Tunisians, in terms of both the number of contaminations and deaths. Thus, the number of 81 thousand cases, for 2400 deaths, has reached the 81 thousand mark, whereas Algeria has only 68 thousand cases for 2168 deaths.

It is difficult to see how, in this context of deteriorating health conditions, the government could relax its anti-COVID measures, including the ban on cultural events and gatherings. While the Carthage Film Days (CFFD) are for the time being maintained, postponed to 18 December, the Carthage Theatre Days (CTD) have been cancelled this year.

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

16 November, 2020

Tunisia – COVID-19: General strike in Redeyef

The local office of the UGTT in Redeyef decided, in consultation with the local office of the UTICA in the city, to call a general strike this Friday 20 November. This is to protest against the health situation related to the COVID-19 epidemic and to demand the equipment of a service dedicated to the epidemic in the local hospital. It should be noted that the epidemiological situation has deteriorated in Rédeyef, which has now suffered ten deaths since the beginning of the crisis.

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

COVID-19: The Bar Association calls for the repression of abusive practices in certain private clinics

The Bar Association on Monday called on the government to take the necessary exceptional measures to repress the abusive practices of certain private clinics and to activate the requisition mechanism. In a statement, the Bar Association calls for equality among Tunisians in the right to health care in all public hospitals without exception including military establishments throughout the country. It also calls for the generalisation of mobile hospitals and the multiplication of screening tests.

The Bar Council expressed dismay at the deterioration of working conditions in the courts, stressing the need for a national debate on the modernisation of the justice service and the development of the judicial infrastructure. While affirming its support for the right to strike, guaranteed by the Constitution, the Bar Association calls for the service not to be paralysed at a time when the fight against the virus, idleness and corruption is on the rise. The public prosecutor’s office had ordered the opening of a judicial inquiry against a private clinic in Nabeul for non-assistance to a person in danger, following the death of Judge Sonia Aridhi by the coronavirus.

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

Nissaf Ben Alaya: Climate change will promote contagion

The spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health, Nissaf Ben Alaya informed, this Monday, November 16, 2020, that climate change will promote the contagion of coronavirus. Ben Alaya warned against the rapid spread of the virus in the coming days, describing the epidemiological situation in Tunisia as critical, pointing out that the country records daily between 50 and 60 deaths caused by COVID-19.

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

Rapid diagnostic tests only detect positive cases during the first 4 days of contamination.

In fact, a hearing session was held in parliament by the Committee for Tunisians Abroad. And the delegation representing the Scientific Council indicated that Tunisia currently has 150 thousand rapid diagnostic tests to detect COVID-19. They are used at certain land crossing points and at the Tunis Carthage airport. In addition, the delegation revealed that a new quantity will be imported soon. However, it also specified that the use of these tests remains limited to symptomatic persons. And this, during the first four days of their contamination.

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

Preventive measures against COVID-19 adopted at the level of the governorate of Sfax

Following the working session held at the headquarters of the Ministry of Health on 14 November 2020, during which the head of government decided to continue the implementation of preventive health measures that were taken on 29 October 2020 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the governorate of Sfax announced the continuation of the planned procedures until 6 December 2020.

These measures stipulate the following:

  • The imposition of curfew throughout the territorial jurisdiction of the governorate of Sfax, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday: from 20:00 to 05:00 in the morning.
  • Saturdays and Sundays: from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m.
    It is forbidden to travel to and from the governorate of Sfax except for work and exceptional cases that can be justified, students are excluded from this procedure.
  • The cafés and restaurants will be closed from 16:00, respecting the capacity limit of 30% in closed areas and 50% in open areas. Any premises that do not meet these requirements will be closed immediately.
  • Prevent all public and private demonstrations in all their forms.
  • Prohibition of any gathering of more than 4 people in public places, with the exception of transport.
  • Suspension of all places of worship.
  • Need to follow the announced health protocols to prevent COVID-19 infection, such as wearing masks, physical distance, hand washing.

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

New measures for the benefit of the tourism sector

At a press conference held at the Government Palace in the Kasbah, a battery of new measures were announced for the benefit of professionals and workers in the tourism sector. These measures come within the framework of the fight against the repercussions of the coronavirus crisis on Tunisian tourism.

These include :

  • A monthly bonus of 200 dinars will be granted to employees in the tourism sector who are technically unemployed and to tourist guides, until a return to normalcy.
  • State assumption of the employer’s social security contribution for the fourth quarter of 2020 and the first two quarters of 2021, provided that jobs are preserved and wages continue to be paid. This coverage concerns the wages of workers who are forced to find themselves in technical unemployment and whose activity has ceased either totally or partially.
  • Programme for the retraining and continuing education of unemployed workers in the tourism sector under the terms of an agreement between the professional federations and the Tourism Trades Training Agency. Funding for this programme will be provided on an exceptional basis, by the Competitiveness Development Fund (FODEC), in the tourism sector. The aim is to grant the beneficiaries a 300 dinars bonus at the end of the training, which will be supported by the State budget.
  • To reschedule the principal of the debt relating to social security contributions, until the third quarter of 2020, and to waive the penalties for late repayment of the principal of the debt, considering that the recovery of the first instalment is an advance.
  • Suspension from January 2021 and for six months of the tax applied to travel agencies as a contribution to the fund for the development of competitiveness in the tourism sector, set at 2 dinars on each seat offered by the means of tourist transport,
  • Extension of the deadline for filing corporate tax returns for the 2019 and 2020 financial years until 31 December 2021, with a rescheduling of the payment from January 2022 to the benefit of tourist and craft establishments
  • Reopening of registration on the Digital Support Platform for businesses affected by COVID-19, exclusively for tourist establishments, without the obligation to comply with the conditions imposed on the other sectors, given that the tourist sector is among the most affected sectors.
  • Revision of the agreement relating to the credit guarantee mechanism concluded between the Ministry of Finance and SOTUGAR to adapt it to the decisions of the ministerial council of 30 April 2020, particularly with regard to the ceiling of 1 million dinars per company set as a condition of eligibility for this guarantee mechanism.
  • Further strengthen the credit line dedicated to the craft sector.

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