December 29, 2020 – January 04, 2021 | Press Review Tunsia

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January 04, 2021

Vaccination is also an economic emergency and an investment for recovery!

On December 30, 2020, the BCT’s board of directors summarized the economic situation in Tunisia, stating that “at the national level and despite signs of a gradual recovery after the lifting of health confinement, economic activity continues to suffer the effects of the pandemic on domestic and external demand, in the light of the restrictions again imposed by the main partner countries, which are hampering the recovery of export-oriented industrial sectors and the service sector, particularly tourism and air transport, in addition to the fluctuations in the output of the extractive industries in relation to the prevailing domestic climate”.

Coronavirus, the ultimate evil and the ultimate remedy

The Tunisian economy had already been in a bad way since 2011, but its financial crisis and social gloom had increased by 2020, with the global effects of the Coronavirus. Tunisia is not alone in this. Indeed, the crisis has virtually wiped out much more powerful economies, which have since injected billions of euros into their economies. The difference is that France, Spain, Greece and Italy have Europe on their side. The exception is Great Britain. It has just definitively made Brexit.
The United Kingdom has tried all sorts of confinements that didn’t work, but it finally realised that it was all a placebo, and that it needed the horse remedy that is now the vaccine, and it was the first country to do so. Remaining in the EU, Germany seems to have understood this and now has the highest vaccination rate. The birthplace of COVID-19, China has already launched vaccination campaigns since 19 December last. Europe, Tunisia’s main partner, is still lagging behind and is still wading through the economic crisis, where it is in fact dragging its economic partners, including Tunisia, along with it. France, for example, has been talking about vaccination for several weeks now. Tunisia, still not!

2020, the end of recreation

In Tunisia, the year 2020 had ended on a taste of ashes, of a real crisis that had only just begun. With a year 2021 in which tourism, and all the sub-sectors of activity which accompany it, will be completely on its knees, if not completely destroyed. With an industry whose exports continue to fall, just as the import which is only an export in perspective. “During the month of November 2020 and at constant prices, imports recorded a drop of (-3.3%) and exports of (-0.6%) compared to the same month last year. The prices of traded products are down by 5.7% for imports and 0.2% for exports”, confirm the INS figures. The Dinar is stabilising at more or less 3 euros, but it is just a drop in imports that almost artificially inflates the foreign exchange reserves not spent on imports (160 days as of 31 December 2020).
“Usually I avoid bad news or worrying anticipations, but serious forecasters predict a return to rising oil prices. I fear a return to $60-$65 a barrel starting in May 2021; a significant deficit between supply and demand for crude (oil) is predicted. Yes it is January 3, 2021,” wrote last Saturday the oil expert Fethi Zouhair Nouri. Inflation remains close to 5%, prices are still rising, but at a slower pace. With all this, 2021 should bring another type of unemployed, those who will lose their jobs under the effect of the crisis which is affecting their companies more and more. Unemployed people too, who will lose the social and family net and impoverish more families. The COVID-19 effect on the entire Tunisian economy is not yet over. The worst, we think as many experts do, unfortunately remains to come.

Vaccination for an economic status of “COVIDSafe” countries

And yet the vaccine is only mentioned occasionally. The director general of the Pasteur Institute, Hechmi Louzir, recently told TAP that Tunisia “will have an initial potential of 2 million doses of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines against COVID-19. They will be given to it by the American pharmaceutical company and its German partner from the second quarter of 2021”.

He also specified that the vaccine will not be mandatory and will be administered first to patients with chronic diseases and people working in vital sectors.
And assuming that the orders have actually been placed, little or nothing has been said about the logistics required for this vaccination. Preparations such as the purchase of vaccine refrigeration equipment and the vaccination schedule are still unknown.
But what we don’t see, above all, is the serious conviction of the Mechichi government and the head of state that the end of the crisis, and the recovery of the economy, requires a mass vaccination, not optional, but compulsory. The conviction that the vaccine is also an economic and social emergency, and the political will to translate this conviction into urgent investment in vaccination, as the Moroccans and Algerians are doing, does not exist in Tunisia.
Vaccinating the majority of the population is indeed becoming an economic emergency at a time when, as in other countries, nothing was working to stem the spread of the pandemic among a population which, driven by the needs of life and the economy, was increasingly lowering its guard, as is happening in Sfax, where the coronavirus is exploding, and in a country where official figures were showing their limits in the face of the reality highlighted by the COVID-19 screening campaigns.
A massive and compulsory vaccination seems to us to be the best investment for a real attempt to revive the economy. A massive and compulsory vaccination will certainly save the next tourist season, at least, if not more. A massive and compulsory vaccination will make Tunisia a “COVIDSafe” country, also for investment, and will prevent unemployment from rotting an already very tense social situation.

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

January 03, 2021

COVID-19: Sfax, the new epicentre of the epidemic in Tunisia

“With more than a third of the contaminations recorded, Sfax is the new epicentre of the COVID-19 epidemic in Tunisia,” notes Professor Faouzi Addad, who speaks in a Facebook post today, Sunday, January 3, 2021, of “an alarming and uncontrollable situation”.

Is this situation part of a strategy of express collective immunity? asks the practitioner, not without irony, since, he notes again, there is no reaction to this situation on the part of the central or regional authorities. “We just let it happen and just count the positive cases and deaths at the end of the evening,” he laments.
But what can be done to deal with this resurgence of the epidemic in Tunisia’s second largest city, at a time when hospital overcrowding is likely to cause even more deaths?
Professor Addad replies in the same post: “Action must be taken immediately, such as the closure of schools, universities, cafés and restaurants. Avoid all sporting events and gatherings in the region. A curfew from 6pm every day. Increase testing and enforce isolation of those testing positive at home. Accelerate the vaccination process among health personnel and vulnerable people. Urgent measures to be enforced as of today and for at least 7 to 10 days”. And the doctor concluded: “At this rate, Tunisia will naturally be vaccinated in 3 to 4 months.”
However, Professor Addad pretends to be unaware that there is a long delay in importing the vaccines and that the vaccination campaign for those at risk and health professionals cannot begin for several weeks and until then, we will have to continue counting the dead.

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

COVID-19: this is why there has been a spike in contamination in recent days

Recently, it seems that the governorate of Tunis has recorded a slight peak in COVID-19 contamination . The reason is simple according to the explanations of the regional director of health in the region, Tarak Ben Nasser. In fact, it is mainly due to the rapid tests that have been put in place.
They are quite reliable and have therefore made it possible to identify a greater number of contaminated people. Even more: speaking this Sunday, January 3, 2021, in a statement granted to the TAP agency, the regional director explained that there are asymptomatic carriers who are, according to him, one of the causes of the spread of the virus.
“It is important to respect the health protocol, wear a mask and comply with health instructions,” he said. For information, in 24 hours, the governorate of Tunis recorded two deaths (peace to their souls) and 62 new contaminations by COVID-19.

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

January 02, 2021

Health and economic crisis, political tension, tragic deaths, terrorism and more: 2020, a year to forget

In welcoming 2020, Tunisians did not know that they were going to experience one of the most exceptional years in all respects. Yet they hoped to see the country get back on track for development, prosperity and stability. Except that, unfortunately, the unpleasant surprises were endless. Tunisians were left to stress, fear and despair. The health crisis was not the only cause.

From the first weeks of the past year, bad news followed bad news, starting with the discovery of the first case of coronavirus on Tunisian soil and the beginning of a pandemic situation, culminating in the outbreak of an unprecedented economic crisis, including reports of the tragic deaths of several young people who had left at the prime of their lives.

Indeed, Tunisia experienced such difficult times in 2020 that at times there was impatience to welcome the new year with the ambition that it would be a much better one. But, without a doubt, this year was heavy to bear because of a pandemic that has taken a heavy toll on the whole world. We were all saddened by the hundreds of thousands of deaths from COVID-19, and no world leader could find the words to express it. Tunisia could not escape this global pandemic context, if it was able to avoid the heavy consequences of the first wave of the crisis, the second wave was so powerful that the deaths and cases of contamination are counted in thousands. Admittedly, this crisis shook the whole world and led to the overflowing of hospital systems, but in Tunisia, the stakes were twofold. The pandemic triggered an unprecedented economic crisis, with the Mechichi government almost unable to pass the finance law for the financial year 2021.

Social instability

This economic crisis has in turn triggered a situation of social instability. The anger in the regions was palpable, with one regional general strike after another, while the state was, and still is, unable to respond to the aspirations of a population on the verge of revolt.

The El-Kamour crisis, resolved in the name of social peace, was a striking example of a social situation that was, to say the least, precarious. While the government was able to put an end to this hostage-taking of oil production sites disguised as a sit-in demanding employment, it could not anticipate a wave of sit-ins adopting the same modus operandi paralysing national production.

Indeed, as several reports by world organisations attest, the gaps observed in terms of education, health, poverty, infrastructure and access to employment are constantly widening between, on the one hand, the coastal regions where skills and economic opportunities are concentrated and, on the other hand, the inland regions which are not very industrialised and where difficulties accumulate, thus maintaining the social situation of the country in perpetual tension.

By the way, this year was the year of all social protests. It was not only the unemployed who took to the streets. Several trades and professions protested throughout the year, starting with construction site workers, reaching judges and lawyers, doctors, journalists, teachers and engineers; in short, everyone was fed up with the days of a year that we all want to forget.

Political quarrels and tensions

In presenting his best wishes to the Tunisians, the President of the Republic, Kaïs Saïed, acknowledged that the year 2020 was one of endless political quarrels. If for him, “the situation cannot continue like this and it was necessary to vaccinate the Tunisian political system, in order to meet the aspirations of the people”, for Tunisians, political tension, sometimes gratuitous, was driving the nail in. Above all, it was the images of a crumbling parliament, abandoned to violence and conflict, that shocked them the most. We all remember, by the way, these distressing images of bloodshed under the dome of the Bardo when deputies came to blows.

This tense political situation had its origins in the impeded negotiations on the formation of the government. After Ennahdha’s failure to form his government, the Fakhfakh government also fell under suspicions of corruption and abuse of power involving former head of government Elyes Fakhfakh. Since then, and even with the installation of the Mechichi government, political tension was palpable and the lack of consensus and understanding between the three presidencies only aggravated matters.

This political context of divergence would also have favoured the return of the terrorist threat and the terrorist act. In fact, although the security situation had clearly improved compared to previous years, the terrorist attack on Akouda in Sousse and the beheading of a young shepherd in Kasserine reminded us that the terrorist threat was still present.

Tragic, so painful deaths

In addition to this pandemic crisis which has affected the whole country, after having provoked a deplorable socio-economic situation, Tunisians have been heavily saddened during this year by the tragic deaths of young people who left in the prime of their lives. Certainly, the tragic accident of a lift that ended the life of a young resident in the hospital of Jendouba shocked us all, to the point that one could not believe such a tragedy. We also remember the death of a girl who was swallowed up by a manhole in La Marsa. A few weeks later, a young student had found the same fate at Enfidha in Sousse. In Sbeitla, a man was also buried alive in a kiosk where he was sleeping and which the municipality had decided to demolish at night. And a few days before its end, 2020 also took away a 30-year-old whose vehicle had fallen into a hole filled with water in Tunis.

The tragedies unfortunately followed one another and all looked alike in a country that was going through an unprecedented moral crisis. Manholes, lift shafts, gaping holes, young people suddenly found a tragic fate in 2020, a year to forget. Let’s hope that 2021 will make us quickly forget this painful year.

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

January 01, 2021

Coronavirus – Tunisia facing a second peak: A cornelian dilemma

The year 2020 is ending with a worrying acceleration in the spread of COVID-19. The new phase marked by a very rapid transmission of the virus does not seem to disturb the peace of mind of the majority of citizens, who are plunged into total indifference. As surprising as it may seem, the more the number of infected people increases, the less people become aware of the seriousness of the situation and ignore the barriers to action. We have entered a dangerous phase, that of the trivialization of the virus. Wearing protective masks and physical distancing are no longer the order of the day. The barrier gestures can be summed up in a few things: tiny posters posted at the entrances of some shops and boutiques, awareness spots broadcast sporadically on TV and which almost nobody takes into account any more.

“The peak of the second wave of the pandemic is expected at the end of December 2020 if the preventive health measures taken by the government are applied,” said Health Minister Faouzi Mehdi, adding that if these measures are not respected or are not reduced, the peak will be delayed until the end of January. The question today is whether the second peak of the epidemic has clearly been reached with 137,216 cases registered as of December 30, 104,980 recoveries and 4,620 deaths, or whether we should expect a further increase in the number of cases of contamination in the coming days due to a slackening in the application of preventive measures against COVID-19.

Just for the last month of a year that not everyone regrets the departure, 2,414 new contaminations by the coronavirus were recorded on December 29 out of 6,403 tests carried out, announced the Ministry of Health on Wednesday evening at TAP. This is the highest number ever recorded. 50 new cases of death were recorded on the same date, bringing the number of deaths to 4620, as already pointed out. What is alarming in more ways than one is that 6,807 infected people are currently hospitalised in public and private sector health facilities, 330 of whom are in intensive care and 121 placed on artificial respiration, the same source adds.

A member of the Coronavirus Control Commission at the Ministry of Health, Samir Abdlemoumen recently called on citizens to respect the barrier measures in these difficult times marked by the large number of contaminated people and the increase in cases of death all over the world and not only in Tunisia. The new strain of the virus is more infectious and therefore spreads more rapidly. It is important that the regulatory authorities become more involved in the application of the anti-COVID-19 health safety protocols. He highlighted the increase in the number of people admitted to intensive care units and the increase in the number of infected people in the regions, particularly in Sfax. “There is no point in taking measures if you are not able to apply them,” he hammered home.

With its procession of financial difficulties for small and medium enterprises, this second peak of the epidemic seems to put the government in a Cornelian dilemma. Either to adopt a zero tolerance policy in the application of these health protocols, which will inevitably help to curb the spread of the disease and protect the population, or to continue to turn a blind eye to certain shortcomings with the serious repercussions that can result.

Anti-coronavirus vaccines are not for tomorrow

While some countries have already entered a post-vaccine phase and dream of the possibility of a return to normal life, this is not the case for Tunisia, which must wait for the acquisition of six million doses of the new COVID-19 vaccine in the second quarter of 2021, according to the director of the Pasteur Institute, Hachemi Louzir. Priority will be given to the elderly and workers in vital sectors. But it is still a long way off.

According to the same source, the vaccine will be free. A glimmer of hope for Tunisians, but until then, the increase in the number of contaminations and cases of death cannot be excluded given the government’s current approach to this second peak, the trivialization of the epidemic by the population and, above all, the false impression that it only happens to others.

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

December 30, 2020

Hichem Mechichi: “Great efforts to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine”.

The government is working hard to get the vaccine against COVID-19 as quickly as possible. Says Head of Government, Hichem Mechichi. He also indicates that the government will put in place a national strategy in early 2021. The objective is to organize this operation.

Indeed, this strategy aims to identify the priority groups that will benefit first from the coronavirus vaccine, explains Hichem Mechichi on the sidelines of the launch at the Lycée 9 April in Tunis, the national campaign for the maintenance of educational institutions. Indeed, the strategy consists, among other things, in fitting out and equipping vaccination centres, he continues.

Tunisia, he said, has signed agreements with two international laboratories for the acquisition of this vaccine. It remains in permanent contact with other laboratories around the world.

According to Mechichi, Tunisia has so far been able to control the epidemiological situation related to COVID-19 despite its seriousness, expressing the hope that the new year, which will see the availability of the virus vaccine in Tunisia, will be marked by an economic revival and an end to the health crisis.

The head of government called on all citizens to respect all protection and prevention measures against the coronavirus. Especially in this end of year period favourable to family gatherings.

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

December 29, 2020

Vaccination against Coronavirus will start in early 2021 in Tunisia (Mechichi)

The head of government, Hichem Mechichi, said Tuesday, December 29 that the government had put in place a strategy of vaccination against the Coronavirus, aimed at breaking the chains of transmission, which is expected to start in early 2021.

On the sidelines of his visit to Sousse, where he visited the Sehloul and Farhat Hached University Hospitals, Mechichi said that the epidemiological situation in the country is still serious and requires that preventive measures be further implemented.

He added that his visit to Sehloul University Hospital Centre, had enabled him to get acquainted with the components of the virological analysis laboratory which was set up last August, and allows 140 analyses/day; it covers the governorates of Sousse, Mehdia, Kairouan, Gabes and Sidi Bouzid.

Mechichi inaugurated the isolation unit, in the microbiological diseases department at Farhat-Hached Hospital, Sousse, after its refurbishment, thus becoming the first service of its kind, in Tunisia and North Africa, in accordance with international standards.

During his visit to the Sehloul University Hospital Centre, he inquired about the progress of the COVID-19 circuit.

The Head of Government also visited the intensive care unit for coronavirus patients at the Fatouma-Bourguiba University Hospital in Monastir.

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