01 – 07 December, 2020 | Press Review Tunisia

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Photo: John S. on Flickr

December 07, 2020

COVID-19: The first batch of vaccine available at the end of March in Tunisia

According to the director of the Pasteur Institute, Hechmi Louzir, Tunisia should receive the first batch of the vaccine against the Coronavirus at the end of March 2021, specifying, this Monday, December 7, 2020 on the waves of Mosaique fm, that the vaccine in question has been tested and that its effectiveness has been scientifically proven.
An announcement intended to reassure Tunisians on the effectiveness of the vaccine in question and on the absence of side effects, recalling that Tunisia should obtain, in total, 6 million doses.
In this context, two laboratories approached by the Ministry of Health have agreed to supply Tunisia with vaccines. The first should supply 2 million doses, the second should deliver 4 million doses.

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

Because of COVID-19, Tunisia has lost 50 doctors and 300 paramedical staff.

The President of the National Council of the Medical Association Dr. Slim Ben Salah said on Monday, December 7, 2020 that a total of 50 doctors have died from the new coronavirus COVID-19. He added that 300 technicians, nurses and paramedics also died after fighting against the virus.
Until last October, no less than 3800 COVID-19 cases had been recorded among medical and paramedical staff in the public and private sectors. Dozens of deaths have also been recorded among doctors, nurses and health sector workers.
The disappearance of some medical and paramedical staff has provoked controversy and provoked the ire of public opinion. Protests have recently taken place to denounce the catastrophic working conditions in most of the country’s hospital institutions. Doctors and nurses have denounced the failure of the Ministry of Health to meet its commitments to provide the necessary means of protection.
According to a latest epidemiological report made public yesterday evening by the Ministry of Health, Tunisia has a total of 104002 confirmed cases including 3561 cases of death.

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

South Korea donates COVID-19 testing kits to Tunisia-19

A ceremony to donate to the Tunisian government Korean screening kits to COVID-19, type RT-PCR, was organised on Monday 7 December 2020 at Tunis-Carthage airport, in the presence of CHO Koo Rae, Korean ambassador to Tunisia and Mustapha Ferjani, Director General of Military Health.
Representing an amount of USD 300,000, the Korean government’s donation of this second batch of the said kits (first batch dated 21 September last) is part of its commitment to contribute to the strengthening of the Tunisian-Korean bilateral cooperation relationship, notably in the joint fight against COVID-19.

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

December 06, 2020

Curfew maintained until December 30,2020 and other series of new preventive measures

The national commission for the fight against coronavirus decided on Sunday to maintain the curfew in all governorates of the country (from 20:00 to 5:00 am during all weekdays) from December 7 and until December 30, 2020.
In a statement issued by the Ministry of Health, the commission announced a series of new measures in the fight against the spread of COVID-19.
To this end, the commission announced :

  • The continued suspension of the holding of fairs, symposia and congresses.
  • The closure of cafés from 19.00 hours (lifting the chairs from 16.00 hours).
  • The prohibition of the consumption of Chicha smoking in cafés.
  • Only thirty (30) people are allowed to attend private events and funeral ceremonies.
  • Mandatory wearing of masks in all places and spaces.
  • Need to respect preventive measures: physical distancing, ventilation and hand washing.

The commission also called on governors to monitor the implementation of these measures at the regional level. It also announced the modification of the measures taken in relation to travel restrictions.
Indeed, travellers arriving in Tunisia for a period not exceeding 5 days should present a negative PCR test carried out within 72 hours before boarding.
Exceptional cases are also taken into consideration by the health containment commission.
The commission also affirmed that all sectors are called upon to apply the adopted and updated sanitary protocols and to ensure their implementation as soon as they are adopted.

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

The Tunisian Cinematheque announces the resumption of its activities

After a stoppage of almost nine months and the measures put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tunisian Film Library announced, on Saturday December 5, the forthcoming resumption of its activities.
The return of activities will be with the 3rd edition of EnviroFest Tunisia which will take place from 11 to 16 December 2020 at the headquarters of the Cinematheque at the Cité de la Culture in Tunis. Screenings will take place in the Omar Khelifi and Tahar Cheriaa cinemas, while the rest of the planned activities will be held in the central hall of the Cité.
A selection of nine (9) films is on the line-up of this annual festival dedicated to environmental film. They deal with topical themes related to the vocation of the festival, such as the environment, global warming, over-consumption of food, and the fight against desertification in Africa.
In partnership with the Japanese embassy in Tunisia, an animated film will be presented at the opening, “Les Enfants du Temps” by Japanese Makato Shinkaï (2019).
As part of the EnviroFest Kids section, “Au Royaume des singes” by Marc Linfield and Alastair Fothegill (2016) and “2040” by Damon Gameau (2019) will be presented.
There will also be fun workshops on sorting and recycling plastic waste.

In partnership with the Cité de la Culture and the Théâtre de l’Opéra, an Environmental Village will take place on 12 and 13 December in the central hall of the Cité, with the participation of civil society associations active in the environmental field. The festival includes an international photographic exhibition entitled “Marine Inhabitants, key to the Mediterranean” by Renaud Dupuy de la Grandrive and Mathieu Foulquié.
The complete programme of the festival can be viewed on the social networks of the Cinémathèque and EnviroFest Tunisia.
A gradual resumption of certain cultural and artistic activities has been in effect since 23 November. Cinemas and theatres (music, choreography, theatre…) are not yet allowed to resume their activities. Only live streaming shows are allowed.

In consultation with the scientific committee for the fight against coronavirus, the Ministry of Cultural Affairs had decided on a resumption for workshops, training courses, poetry meetings, artistic residencies, art galleries and libraries.
Activity in museums and historical and archaeological sites is currently restricted and the number of visitors allowed does not exceed 50 pc of the usual capacity for each space.
In parallel with this reduction, the scientific committee recommended that the restrictive measures in force be continued through the application of sanitary protocols in order to succeed in stopping the spread of COVID-19.

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

December 05, 2020

Tunisia – COVID-19: More than one million people have benefited from social assistance

More than one million and 150 thousand people have benefited from social aid granted by the State to cope with the repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis in Tunisia.
This is what the Minister of Social Affairs, Mohamed Trabelsi, said during an intervention, Friday, December 4, 2020 at the Assembly of People’s Representatives (ARP) devoted to the examination of the draft budget of his department.
During a plenary session, Mohamed Trabelsi however acknowledged “the shortcomings and abuses existing at the level of the distribution of social aid, including 6,000 grants that had failed to be directed to their beneficiaries. “The authorities had rectified the situation by updating the data,” he noted, according to the TAP agency.

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

Socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on the private sector in Tunisia

According to a study carried out by INS and IFC, fewer Tunisian companies impacted by the COVID-19 crisis have received government support: 14% declare having received this support against 28% in Italy, 24% in Jordan, 22% in Morocco, 33% in Romania and 36% in Turkey.
The National Institute of Statistics (INS), in collaboration with IFC – a member of the World Bank Group – has launched the second phase of its survey to study and monitor the impact of COVID-19 on the private sector in Tunisia.
This survey, in three phases, is administered by telephone to a panel of 2,500 companies representative of the formal private sector. This second phase took place in September and October while the first phase was conducted in May and June.
The survey questioned companies on the following themes: the state of operation of Tunisian companies during the COVID-19 crisis, the evolution of the factors impacting the activity of companies, the measures intended for companies to deal with the crisis, the adjustment mechanisms put in place by companies, the sustainability of companies activities, and the existence and use of Business Continuity Plans. It also includes a “Benchmark” section comparing the situation in Tunisia with a number of countries: Algeria, Italy, Jordan, Morocco, Romania and Turkey.

“The results of this second phase of the survey on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the Tunisian private sector show an increased use of employment-related adjustment mechanisms in July, including redundancies, despite a slight improvement in activity indicators at that date. At the end of the third quarter, the perception of risk on the sustainability of companies also seems to deteriorate,” said Adnen Lassoued, Director General of the INS.

“This second phase notably allows us to better monitor the evolution of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on key sectors of the Tunisian economy, in order to bring public policy measures that are better targeted. The private sector in Tunisia, as in many other countries, has been negatively affected by the crisis. The main thing now is to effectively implement the support and stimulus measures,” said Georges Joseph Ghorra, IFC’s Resident Representative in Tunisia.
The main findings of the survey are :
1- The majority of companies were open in the 3rd quarter of 2020: 86.9% of companies were open: 12.2% of establishments remained open without interruption (24.5% in the 2nd quarter) and 74.7% reopened after an interruption.

2- Definitive closures of companies increased sharply: 5.4% of companies were definitively closed, 1.5% because of Covid-19 (0.3% in the 2nd quarter) and 3.9% for other reasons (0.1% in the 2nd quarter). In addition, 7.7% of companies were temporarily closed: 7.0% by company decision and 0.7% by decision of the authorities. While 37.2% of companies opened during the third quarter said they were at risk of closing permanently under current conditions, compared with 35.0% in the second quarter.

3- The health crisis has severely disrupted companies’ activities despite a slight post-deconfinement improvement: 82.3% stated that they suffered a drop in turnover during July compared with 88.8% in April. Among those who worked in July, 87.4% recorded a drop in their cash flow, 79.8% recorded a drop in demand, 59.9% reported difficulties in accessing financial services, 52% reported a difficulty in the supply of raw materials and 45.6% were faced with a drop in working hours.

4- Private sector companies made greater adjustments in terms of employment during the month of July: 59.0% of companies made employment-related adjustments in July (compared to 53.7% in April), 17.7% made redundancies, 18.2% granted paid leave and 7.2% unpaid leave, 10.9% resorted to pay cuts and 27.1% reduced the number of hours worked, while 4.8% of companies recruited.

5- The digitalisation of companies to cope with the health crisis has slowed down following the deconfinement: 9.3% of companies increased their online presence in the third quarter compared with 12.5% in the second quarter. The main purpose of this online presence is to facilitate teleworking and to perform administrative tasks, with notable progress in the use of new technologies for sales and means of payment.

6- The use of resilience plans and business sustainability policies remains very limited among the companies surveyed: only 14.8% of companies report having a Business Continuity Plan (BCP) in Q3, a slight increase on Q2 (13.3%). These BCPs notably include teleworking for 62.9% of companies in the third quarter, compared with 26.1% of companies in the second quarter.

7- Companies are calling for more support measures to deal with the crisis: the three measures they say they need most are tax exemptions/reductions (42.7%), direct cash injections (37.6%) and tax deferrals (27.9%). More companies report having benefited from government measures: from 9.6% in Q2 to 16.4% in Q3. Among the companies that would not have benefited, 37.6% declared that they had not been able to benefit from them despite their requests, 15.7% did not express interest in benefiting from them, while 12.4% said they had not benefited from the support measures because of the difficulty of the process.

8- Overall, the operating rate of Tunisian companies is in line with comparable countries. This rate remains even better than that of other countries in the MENA region. However, they have been more impacted by declines in sales than their peers.

Finally, Tunisian companies are less likely to have received government support: 14% declare having received government support compared to 28% in Italy, 24% in Jordan, 22% in Morocco, 33% in Romania and 36% in Turkey.
This study is part of IFC’s business climate improvement programme in Tunisia with the support of the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the European Union (EU).

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

December 04, 2020

The Ministry of Civil Service decides not to extend exceptional administrative hours

The Ministry of Civil Service has decided not to extend the exceptional administrative hours, introduced by a government decree dated 5 October 2020.

In a press release issued on Friday, the department announced the resumption of work, from Monday 7 December, in accordance with government decree n°2012-1710 of 14 September 2012, relating to the distribution of working hours and days for employees of the State, local authorities and public administrative establishments.

The ministry specified that the working hours and days are distributed as follows:

-Monday to Thursday: from 8.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. and from 1.30 p.m. to 5.30 p.m.
-Friday: from 8.00 to 13.00 and from 14.30 to 17.30.

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

December 03, 2020

New provisions for certain travellers entering Tunisia

The airline company Tunisair announced, in a press release published on Thursday 3 December 2020, new provisions linked to the entry of passengers into Tunisia, returning after a journey of less than five days or visiting for a period of less than five days.

Tunisair stresses that travellers returning to Tunisia after a stay abroad of less than five days must carry out a confinement at home or at a hotel for seven days at their own expense and in the case of the appearance of coronavirus symptoms, they are required to carry out an RT-PCR test.

Travellers staying in Tunisia for less than five days must carry out and present a negative RT-PCR test less than 72 hours before the trip, specifying that in this case, quarantine is not mandatory.

For unforeseen trips to Tunisia which do not allow for an RT-PCR test, travellers are required to obtain prior authorisation from the health authorities by presenting arguments, namely, the precise programme of the visit or mission. They must also undertake to scrupulously respect the measures of the health protocol.

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

The Friday prayer again allowed, “but” …

Under pressure from the faithful, the Ministry of Religious Affairs has announced a series of measures in anticipation of the reopening of mosques for Friday prayers in a week’s time, starting December 4.

Meeting Wednesday at the Government Palace in the Kasbah, the National Commission for the Fight against Coronavirus decided to resume Friday prayer with a presence not exceeding 30%, starting Friday, December 4.

The ministry insisted on December 2 in a statement on the imperative to apply “rigorously” the health protocol relating to places of worship. Among these provisions, the authorities emphasise six points in the updated specifications on which they “will not compromise”:

  • Ventilation and cleaning of the prayer rooms before welcoming the faithful.
  • The opening of the mosques fifteen minutes before the call to prayer, as well as the immediate exit of the faithful after the completion of the prayer.
  • The lightening of the Friday prayer to 10 minutes only for the two sermons and the two prostrations (rakâa)
  • The performance of ablutions at home and no longer in dedicated facilities in mosques
  • The obligation to bring one’s own individual prayer mat
  • Finally, the compulsory wearing of a sanitary mask

The same department also emphasises the need to respect physical distance (one metre minimum), and calls on the elderly, people suffering from chronic illnesses or people with symptoms similar to those of COVID-19 to avoid going to mosques.

The Ministry has once again called for the respect of health instructions relating to places of worship, on pain of sanctions and closure in the event of non-compliance with the protocol put in place.

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

75% of women victims of violence during confinement

A report on “Violence against women during the COVID-19 pandemic”, prepared by the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women (ATFD) between 16 March and 30 April 2020, coinciding with the period of general confinement in Tunisia, revealed that most of the women victims of violence during this period are educated women, with more than 40% of the women having a secondary school education and about 28.5% a university level.

At a press conference held on Thursday to present the results of the report, the coordinator of the Association’s anti-violence committee, Cherifa Tlili, explained that the report also showed that about 75% of the women who were victims of violence during this period suffer from economic vulnerability, 57% of them are unemployed, 11.6% are working, while 4.6% are domestic workers.

In this regard, Tlili called on government structures to play a key role in establishing procedures to enable women to achieve economic independence and empower them to deal with violence against them without fear of poverty. She indicated that women aged 31-60 were at the top of the list of women most at risk of violence, at a rate of over 57%, while the percentage of women in the 18-30 age group was about 34%, stressing that such violence does not exclude women over 60 and girls, at about 7%, according to the same report.

For her part, the Secretary General of the Association, Neila Zoghlami, considered that the report reveals the profound changes that Tunisian society has undergone since the period of general confinement and which has seen the exposure of educated women to violence, adding that they had probably tried to defend their rights, but had come up against a lack of cooperation from the intervening structures.

Insufficient protection

“This situation has blatantly revealed that Tunisia, which has a significant legal arsenal in the area of defending women’s rights, including the law on the elimination of violence against women, has failed to provide the necessary protection for women on the ground, particularly in the area of domestic violence, the most widespread form of violence, with 67% according to the report,” she added.

She recalled in this context that domestic violence against women increased fivefold during the confinement period in 2020 compared to 2019, explaining that the upsurge in this violence is the result of the interruption of services in the structures for dealing with abused women and the lack of a clear circuit, and the length and complexity of the procedures relating to this type of case.

Zoghlami denounced what she described as “laxity” on the part of government structures concerned with the defence of women’s rights, stressing that the percentage of battered women who were referred by state institutions to ATFD centres was over 70%.

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

December 02, 2020

Tunisia should procure 6 million doses of vaccine

The Minister of Health, Faouzi Mehdi, announced at a press conference held on Wednesday, December 2, 2020, that the Minister of Health should obtain 6 million doses of vaccine against the coronavirus.

He indicated, in this sense, that two laboratories requested by the Ministry of Health have given their agreement to supply Tunisia with vaccines. The first should provide 2 million doses, the second should deliver 4 million doses, he said.

Last Monday, the Minister of Health had confirmed that Tunisia had sent requests for the acquisition of 5 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine and that it hopes to cover its needs with these 5 million doses.

The director of the Pasteur Institute of Tunis, Hechmi Louzir, had confirmed a few days ago that the first batch of the vaccine is expected next April or May at the latest in Tunisia.

He said that in a first stage, the vaccine will concern vulnerable categories representing 20% of the population. “Afterwards, the vaccination rate could reach 50% of the population,” he added.

For his part, Health Minister Faouzi Mehdi had assured that “the vaccine against COVID-19 will be free. »

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

December 01, 2020

The Tunisian economy regresses by 10% during the first 9 months of 2020

Meeting on November 30, 2020, the Board of Directors of the Central Bank of Tunisia (BCT) decided to maintain unchanged the key interest rate of the resigning Institute. It also noted a decline in economic growth during the third quarter of 2020 of around 6% year-on-year. The text of the press release is reproduced below.

The Board held its periodic remote meeting on 30 November 2020 and, at the start of its work, took note of recent developments in economic, monetary and financial indicators, noting in this regard a decline in economic growth in the third quarter of 2020 of around 6% year-on-year, despite the significant recovery recorded compared with the second quarter of the current year (+19.8% compared with -20.4% in the previous quarter, in terms of quarterly variations), in the wake of the lifting of total sanitary containment.
As a result, the Tunisian economy recorded an unprecedented contraction of 10%, at constant prices, during the first nine months of the current year, compared with growth of 1.1% during the same period of the previous year.

Inflation was maintained at around 5.4%.

With regard to price developments, the Council noted the stabilisation of the inflation rate in October 2020 at around 5.4% year-on-year for the third consecutive month, compared with 6.5% a year earlier. This development is due to the easing of manufacturing and food prices, while service tariffs have rather accelerated. The main indicators of underlying inflation have also continued their downward trend, notably the rise in prices excluding packaged and fresh products, which reached 4.9% in October 2020 against 5% one month earlier.

With regard to the external sector, the Council highlighted the significant regression of the current deficit during the first ten months of 2020 to 5.8% of GDP, compared to 7.5% for the same period of the previous year. This result is mainly attributable to the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on the volume and value of Tunisia’s foreign trade.
Nevertheless, the net flows of foreign capital made it possible to cover the current deficit and to consolidate the level of net foreign currency assets which reached 22.375 MTD or 154 days of importation on November 27, 2020 against 18.999 MTD or 107 days of importation on the same date of the previous year.
Moreover and concerning the financing of the State budget for the year 2020, the Council took cognizance of the approval by the Assembly of People’s Representatives (ARP) of Article 5 of the Amending Finance Law, authorising the BCT, on an exceptional basis, to finance part of the budget deficit caused by the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis, by granting facilities to the benefit of the General Treasury of Tunisia in the order of 2,810 MTD.

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