Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi said Friday that Tunisia will impose a COVID-19 lockdown for one week starting next Sunday, ahead of next week’s Eid al-Fitr holiday.
“A seven-day general lockdown has been decreed from May 9 on midnight to May 16, 2021,” the PM said.
He explained that the decision, as well as other measures, were taken by the National Committee to Combat the Coronavirus to protect Tunisians and stem the spread of the pandemic.
Listing the new measures, government spokesperson Hasna Ben Slimane said it had been decided to impose a curfew from 7 pm to 5 am, ban inter-city travel except for urgent cases, suspend cultural and sporting events and gatherings, close places of worship and all daily and weekly markets and supermarkets. Only shops that sell essential goods will remain open.
She said all preventive measures and mandatory quarantine of persons arriving from abroad will be maintained, and the control of the enforcement of preventive measures will be tightened by sanctioning all offenders.
“Health institutions are at risk of collapse,” Mechichi said, adding that medics were stretched to the limit, with around 100 people a day dying of COVID-19.
“Coronavirus is not only numbers but rather stories of suffering, entire families are in the ICUs,” he added.
Mechichi had said several times in recent weeks that Tunisia is unable to afford to repeat the restrictions put in place in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic.
Tunisia’s economy shrank by 8.9% last year, and the government started talks this week with the International Monetary Fund to seek a package of financial assistance.
Since early April, Tunisia has recorded an increase of COVID-19 daily infections with dozens of deaths.
The country had already suspended school classes, imposed mandatory quarantine and extended a nightly curfew.
In the past 24 hours, Tunisia recorded 69 more deaths, bringing the toll to 11,277.