Asharq Al-awsat English Middle-east and International News and Opinion from Asharq Al-awsat Newspaper

Tunisia Denies Discovering Coronavirus Variants

Tunisia Denies Discovering Coronavirus Variants

Wednesday, 24 February, 2021 - 08:30
Municipal workers bury a coronavirus victim in Jellaz cemetery in the capital, Tunis (AFP)

The Pasteur Institute of Tunisia asserted that the new strain of the coronavirus has not spread throughout the country, indicating that local health authorities continue to study and monitor the local variant.

Director of the Institute Hechmi Louzir confirmed that the strain that was discovered in Tunisia shares some similar genetic variants with other strains spread globally. However, he indicated that laboratories continue their tests to identify its characteristics and how it spreads between people.

Louzir noted that the characteristic of the strain discovered in Tunisia raises the question about the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. Yet, he explained that the available vaccines remain effective against the new strain.

The Tunisian health authorities denied the possibility of accurate identification of the characteristics of the strain, which was discovered in two Tunisians who contracted the coronavirus in a short time.

The process of identifying the extent of its rapid spread is still under analysis and research, as this process requires careful studying of the health status of the infected and people who came in their contact, according to health officials.

The Ministry of Health confirmed that recently there has been a gradual drop in deaths and confirmed coronavirus cases.

The Ministry reported 18 more fatalities from the virus, bringing the total deaths to 7,811, while the case count stands at 228,937 as the number of recoveries rose to 189,358.

Meanwhile, Saleh Jlassi, 61, another coronavirus victim was buried in Jellaz cemetery by four men wearing protective suits, as his brother, Lotfi, stood aside saying a prayer.

“The pain of separation is doubled,” Jlassi told AFP in tears, adding: “my brother Salah died without his daughter or wife being able to say goodbye.”

Covid-19 victims are now taken directly from the morgue to the cemetery, forgoing the usual rituals and traditions of burial.

Usually, the body would be taken to the mosque for the funeral prayer, but this practice too has been stopped, as the deceased is directly taken to the cemetery, amid strict health protocols.

"It's difficult, unbearable," said Jlassi back at his home, sitting among empty chairs meant for mourners.

Outside the morgue at Charles Nicolle hospital, Lotfi said goodbye to his brother, as the odor of disinfectant penetrates the masks of relatives who have come to accompany the body of a family member who died from Covid-19 to the cemetery.

Editor Picks