December 21 – 28, 2020 | Press Review Tunisia

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Photo: John S. on Flickr

December 28, 2020

Family reunions should not exceed 10 people during the New Year’s Eve celebration (Ben Alaya).

The director of the National Observatory for New and Emerging Diseases (NONMNE), Nissaf Ben Alaya, said that the holiday season should not bring together more than two families.

She recommended that the family celebration of New Year’s Eve should not exceed ten participants.

In a statement on yesterday’s 8 p.m. newscast, Ben Alaya said the danger of covid-19 contamination in the family environment remains very high.

For her part, Jalila Ben Khalil, a member of the scientific committee for the fight against the coronavirus, warned against contagion by the virus during the festive season, pointing out that this is not the time to celebrate.

The current epidemiological situation has its origins in parties, summer weddings and gatherings, explained Dr Ben Khalil, pointing out that all countries have cancelled this year’s end-of-year celebrations to stem the spread of the virus.

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

December 27, 2020

COVID-19: the new strain in Sfax? Precisions of the governor

The new COVID-19 strain is on all languages and has arrived in several countries around the world, including 3 Arab countries. Rumours have been circulating about the existence of this new strain in Tunisia in Sfax.
The information has been denied by the governor of Sfax, Anis Oueslati, who spoke in the 20h of Al Watanya on the evening of this Sunday, December 27, 2020. “At present, no contamination by the new strain of COVID-19 has been detected in the region,” he said. The new strain, as a reminder, is the result of the thousands of mutations – more than 20,000 – that SARS-CoV-2 has undergone since its appearance. According to scientists, it is spreading 70% faster.

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

Positive cases exceed 20% among the rapid tests carried out in these regions!

The rate of positive cases exceeded 20 percent among the rapid tests performed for the detection of coronavirus, according to data provided by the platform.

According to the platform, which includes health professionals and works to provide the necessary information about the coronavirus, the regional health directorates in 4 governorates of the country have carried out more than 4680 rapid tests for the benefit of citizens.

The health services recorded a total of 696 positive tests, or 15 per cent. This rate, according to the same source, reached 35.6 per cent in the delegation of Msaken (Sousse governorate), recording 66 positive cases after nearly 185 rapid tests were carried out on 24 December, and 23.2 per cent in the locality of El Omrane supérieur (Tunis governorate) after 250 rapid tests were carried out on 22 December.

The rapid tests carried out in localities in the Beja governorate have led to the registration of 166 positive cases out of a total of 905 tests carried out, i.e. a rate of 18.3 per cent as of 24 December.

In the governorate of Tunis, at Avenue Habib Bourguiba, 17.6 per cent of positive cases were detected and 17.1 per cent in the El Hrayria delegation.

There were also 17.1 positive cases in the Enfidha delegation (Sousse governorate) and 15 percent in Manouba, according to the same source.

Elsewhere, in Tataouine, the regional health directorate recorded 27 new cases of coronavirus contamination bringing the total to 1368 cases including 97 deaths. In Mahdia, 84 new cases of coronavirus contamination were recorded Sunday in this governorate bringing the balance sheet to 3373 cases including 86 deaths against 2342 recoveries after the recovery of 55 patients.

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

December 26, 2020

COVID-19: The Ministry of Health should challenge itself

Numbers never lie. And even if we lie about the numbers, they remain so implacable that they end up betraying us and our lies. Isn’t that right, Mr. Minister of Health?

The figures provided by the Ministry of Health, on a daily basis, speak volumes. They say, out loud, what all health executives want to deny. They say that the services of the Ministry of Health are still not in a position to take care, as they should, of Covid patients and even less so of the epidemic as such.

In fact, the figures show that despite a decrease, if only relative, in the number of cases and deaths, the number of hospitalized patients and, above all, those admitted to intensive care, or put on artificial respirators, is increasing a little more each day.

This means that the lights of Health in Tunisia are still unable to set up a system of early screening and care for patients carrying Covid, so that they are diagnosed very late, at a stage where we are obliged to admit ever greater numbers to the services and especially those in intensive care.

Everyone now knows that the chances of recovery decrease very quickly with the evolution of the disease. Whereas at the very beginning of the contagion, one could, very easily, with treatment at the patient’s home, get him out of the situation. As the disease progresses a little further and lung damage sets in, the condition requires hospitalisation and, at a more advanced stage of the disease, hospitalisation in intensive care and putting the patient on artificial respiration.

Moral of the story, the lights of the Ministry of Health should be turning back and questioning their strategy. They should learn from the figures they themselves are now publishing, to understand that their system of care, particularly in terms of early detection and treatment, is failing and that they should revise it. It is good to publish figures, but you must always know how to interpret them and use them properly.

But as they are far from being ready to question themselves and as this is a matter of life and death for thousands of citizens, it is up to the government to put an end to this masquerade and the hecatomb they are committing.

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

A donation from the Tunisian community in Marseille to benefit Tunisia

The Tunisian community in Marseilles, France, has donated medical equipment to Tunisia to support the efforts of the Ministry of Health in the face of COVID-19, the ministry announced on Friday, December 25, 2020.

This equipment will be distributed in the governorates of Tunis, Ariana, Nabeul, Kef and Jendouba.

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

December 25, 2020

Total vagueness in the Tunisian vaccination strategy against COVID-19

While vaccination campaigns against COVID-19 have begun in many countries, including in the southern Mediterranean, Tunisians still know almost nothing about their national vaccination strategy, if any, at all. Between secrecy, sloppiness and improvisation, this lack of transparency is irritating at a time when the issue of vaccination is being debated throughout the world.

Between Pfizer/BioNtech, Moderna and AstraZeneca, competition is reaching its peak to dominate the long-awaited world vaccine market. Admittedly, this is a fair battle regulated by scientific imperatives, but you don’t need to be a political scientist to decipher the diplomatic proportions of this new market. There are even rumours of the birth of a health passport with vaccination requirements for travelling between countries.

The vaccine marathon

In this context, almost the majority of European countries had taken the initiative and this eventuality was quickly overruled by their authorities. “I want to make it clear I will not make vaccination compulsory,” said recently Emmanuel Macron, President of France, where the French High Authority for Health gave the green light to the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine.
In the shadow of these very promising projects, China seems to be keeping its chances in this marathon. The CoronaVac coronavirus vaccine, developed by the Chinese laboratory Sinovac, has “reached the threshold of effectiveness” required by the World Health Organisation (WHO), according to the Butantan Institute, which is responsible for its production and distribution in Brazil.
Nevertheless, men and women all over the world have revealed their scepticism towards this “Chinese vaccine”. I understand that the “Made in China” label always arouses fear, what can I say when it comes to a drug.
However, two very important concepts need to be brought to light.

Firstly, China is a world leader in scientific research with thousands of high quality, large-scale publications, particularly in the medical field. Secondly, the Sinovac laboratory was ahead of its competitors in 2009 by becoming the first to put a swine flu vaccine on the world market.
This is to tell you that it is a high-end pharmaceutical company on an international scale, and has been doing so for the past ten years or so. In addition to China, Morocco, Egypt, the Emirates, Brazil and several countries in South America and Asia have already ordered millions of doses of CoronaVac. Our Moroccan friends ordered 10 million doses this December to start their vaccination campaign.

A lot of vagueness and unpreparedness

After analysing this data, the first question that comes to mind is: why doesn’t Tunisia even mention the possibility of using this Chinese vaccine!? Recently we learned the good news that Pfizer/BioNtech will meet our need for a vaccine. But there is confusion about the timing of this response. We’re talking about two million doses, perhaps starting in March, according to Hechmi Louzir, Director General of the Pasteur Institute in Tunis, and 6 million doses in the second half of 2021, according to Mehdi Faouzi, the Minister of Health. Namely that the very representative of Pfizer in Tunisia, Walid Lakhdar, explained in this regard that the vaccine will be imported into Tunisia “as soon as possible”, without further details on a date. And until then, we have not even begun to put in place the necessary logistics for transporting the vaccine and respecting its cold chain. This is a complicated task that requires advance preparation.
Hence my second question: is there an official strategy to vaccinate Tunisian citizens or are we still in an improvisation phase!?
In reality and up to this moment, we don’t know what this strategy is. There’s only scattered information, contradictory in the majority of cases, with no real plan written in black and white.
I think the time has come to reveal this strategy to the citizens in full transparency. It is not a state secret to discuss it behind closed doors in the corridors of ministries. It is time for every Tunisian citizen to have free access to the national strategy for the vaccination of the population with precise deadlines and figures.

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

December 24, 2020

Tunisia suspends air traffic with Denmark

Arrival, departure and transit flights between Tunisian and Danish airports are suspended from Thursday 24 December until further notice, the Ministry of Transport and Logistics announced.

Passengers coming from Denmark, or having transited through this country will not be accepted on Tunisian soil, added the Ministry of Transport, explaining that this decision comes as a result of the emergence of a new strain of the Covid-19 virus.

The Ministry of Transport and Logistics had already decided, on Monday, to suspend all outbound, return and transit flights between Tunisian airports and those of the United Kingdom, South Africa and Australia, for the same reason.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had warned on Sunday against the rapid spread of a new strain of coronavirus much more contagious than the others, detected notably in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark and Australia.

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

Measures for travellers from countries affected by the new strain of COVID-19

The Ministry of Health today announced new instructions for travellers coming from countries where the new strain of COVID-19 has been reported: “This concerns those who left Tunisia before the suspension of flights to and from these countries, or exceptional cases, authorised to enter Tunisia for health, professional or family reasons,” the ministry said.
Travellers, who must present a negative PCR test will be subjected to rapid tests (TDR-Antigen) upon arrival in Tunisia: If the result is positive, they will be transferred to a Covid+ centre, if it is negative, they will have to comply with a compulsory confinement of 14 days, in one of the dedicated hotels and at their own expense. “If the traveller wishes to reduce the duration of the confinement, they can carry out, at their own expense, a PCR test on the 7th day and if it proves negative, the quarantine will be lifted,” the ministry’s press release added.
It should be recalled that since November 9, any person coming from abroad must present a negative PCR test and observe, upon entry into Tunisia, a quarantine of 14 days, at home or in a hotel. This quarantine can be reduced to 7 days if the 2nd PCR test is negative.
It should be noted that Tunisia has suspended flights with Denmark, the United Kingdom, South Africa and Australia due to the appearance of the new strain of COVID-19.

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

December 23, 2020

UAE: Coronavirus at the origin of the suspension of the granting of visas to Tunisians

A month after announcing their decision, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) explained the reason for the suspension of visas to several nationalities, including Tunisia.

At a joint press briefing with his Pakistani counterpart, the UAE Foreign Minister, Sheikh Abdullah Ben Zayed al-Nahyane, confirmed the existence of a decision to suspend visas for 13 countries.

This decision, officially announced in November by the Emirati immigration directorate, was taken because of the Coronavirus epidemic, explains the official.

A source close to the case quoted by Reuters said a month ago that the UAE took this “temporary” decision for security reasons. It finally turned out that the pandemic is the cause.

Thus, applications for work or tourist visas are no longer accepted from the following countries: Iran, Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Libya and Yemen, Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Kenya, Algeria and Tunisia, until further notice.

It has to be said that the explanation of the Emirati authorities is rather vague and unclear, given that several other Arab countries such as Morocco or Jordan are experiencing a greater spread of VIDOC-19 than Tunisia, but are not included in the above-mentioned list.

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

December 22, 2020

Ban on the end of the year festivities: clarification from a member of the anti-COVID commission

In the face of the spread of COVID-19, the proposal to suspend events related to the end of year celebrations was welcomed by several Tunisians, but others were more sceptical about its usefulness. Speaking in La Matinale of Shems FM on Tuesday 22 December 2020, Dr. Jalila Ben Khelil, member of the Scientific Commission for the Fight against the Disease, reiterated the call to suspend the said events. “2020 has been an exceptional year. We must therefore bid it an exceptional farewell. Festivals are a real danger and must be avoided,” she said.
Even if the health situation improves, she continued, it is inconceivable that the Tunisian will spend the end of the year as he did in previous years. “It is necessary to avoid gatherings in houses. The celebration must be held in a restricted family setting. On the other hand, the curfew and the ban on movement between regions must be maintained. If the situation has worsened in Tunisia today, it is because of the celebrations and weddings last summer,” said Jalila Ben Kheli.

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

COVID-19: extended curfew in Tunisia

The curfew in Tunisia, decreed with a view to limiting the spread of COVID-19, will be extended until 15 January 2021. This was indicated by the Minister of Health, Faouzi Mehdi, who said that this extension also includes a ban on travel between governorates and a ban on gatherings and demonstrations.
As a reminder, the minister also insisted on the ban on festivities for the end of the year celebrations.

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