Tunisia reinstates curfews as virus cases mount

A worker disinfects a street of downtown Tunis, in Tunisia on Oct. 8, 2020. Tunisian Health Ministry on Thursday reported 2,357 new COVID-19 cases and 45 more deaths, raising the total number of infections to 26,899 and the death count to 409. A 15-day curfew started on Thursday in the capital Tunis, which lasts from 9 p.m. local time (20:00 GMT) to 5 a.m. (04:00 GMT) from Monday to Friday, and from 7 p.m. local time to 5 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. (Photo by Adel Ezzine/Xinhua)
A worker disinfects a street of downtown Tunis, in Tunisia on Oct. 8, 2020. (Photo by Adel Ezzine/Xinhua)

Tunisia has reinstated curfews in several regions in recent days in a bid to rein in a sharp spike in novel coronavirus cases that threaten to overwhelm its hospitals.

The North African country had imposed strict lockdown measures that practically smothered its first wave of cases over the summer, with 50 dead from the virus.

But since it re-opened its borders in June, infections have mounted to over 1,000 cases a day, with a total of 478 dead, forcing understaffed and poorly equipped hospitals to battle to treat the influx of patients.

At least 18 members of parliament and two of their assistants have tested positive in recent days, the legislature’s official doctor Maher Ayadi told AFP on Tuesday.

In a bid to slow the rate of new cases, two-thirds of Tunisia’s governorates have reintroduced local or province-wide night-time curfews, including Grand Tunis, made up of four regions which together are home to around a tenth of the population.

In many of these areas, additional prevention measures have been taken, such as closing markets and banning chairs in cafes.

Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi has ruled out a return to a full lockdown but has urged people to wear masks in public places.

The government’s Covid-19 committee has warned that unless the spike in cases is curtailed, the country risks being overwhelmed.