Tunisia begins week of strict COVID lockdown | News on the coronavirus pandemic

More than 500 people are currently in intensive care in Tunisia, a level hitherto unheard of in this North African country.

Tunisia began a week of coronavirus restrictions covering the Eid holiday on Sunday, as hospitals struggle to stay afloat amid the surge in COVID-19 cases.

Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi said on Friday that Tunisia was going through “the worst health crisis in its history” and that health facilities were in danger of collapsing.

Until next Sunday, mosques, markets and non-essential shops are to close, family or cultural gatherings and celebrations are banned, and people are prohibited from traveling between regions.

A nighttime curfew begins at 7 p.m. (6 p.m. GMT) instead of 10 p.m. and is in effect until 5 a.m.

Schools have been closed since mid-April.

Shops along central Habib Bourguiba Avenue in Tunis and in the old town were all closed on Sunday, an AFP news agency correspondent said.

But videos shared on social media appear to show almost normal activity in several other parts of the country, including people without masks and not respecting social distancing.

The Eid al-Fitr holidays that mark the end of Ramadan are traditionally a time when Muslim families and friends get together.

This year, the holidays are expected to start on Thursday.

Tunisia, a country of nearly 12 million inhabitants, has officially recorded more than 319,000 cases of coronavirus and 11,350 deaths.

More than 500 people are currently in intensive care, a level hitherto unheard of in this North African country.

The country has set up field hospitals to cope with the influx of patients.

It is also struggling to meet its oxygen needs and has appealed for help from European countries and even neighboring Algeria, struggling with its own health crisis.

A vaccination campaign launched in mid-March, a month later than expected, is progressing more slowly than expected.

“The number of patients in hospitals has almost doubled in just one month,” said Amen-Allah Messadi, a doctor in the country’s COVID-19 scientific task force.

He added that oxygen consumption had “increased four to six times.”

“The situation is very serious,” he said.

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