Tunisia puts military on vaccination duty as cases soar

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A soldier helps and elderly man to enter the vaccination center in Kesra,130 kilometers (80 miles) south of Tunis, Tuesday, July 13, 2021. As part of the efforts from the Tunisian government to try to stop the increasing number of infections in the country, the militaries were deployed to some cities and rural areas hardly affected by COVID-19 or with a very low rate of vaccination, to vaccinate people. (AP Photo/Saber Zidi)

Tunisia’s government has decided to deploy the armed forces to vaccinate people in the regions with the worst infection rates and in areas with particularly low vaccination rates, AP reported.

Tunisia is facing its worst coronavirus surge since the pandemic began, further stressing the North African country’s already crowded hospitals and health system.

That has forced some regions to go back into lockdown and prompted waves of donations of vaccines or medical aid from China, France, Turkey, Italy, the United Arab Emirates and Algeria.

Over the past month, confirmed cases in Tunisia have reached their highest daily numbers of the pandemic, but the nationwide vaccination rate remains low, according to data from John’s Hopkins University.

Tunisia has reported Africa’s highest per-capita pandemic death toll and is currently recording one of the world’s highest daily per-capita infection rates, the data indicate.

Military health workers vaccinated thousands of people in Kesra and other sites in the Siliana region in central inland Tunisia, mainly individuals over age 60 with underlying health conditions.

The military said the medical deployment could be extended to other areas in the coming days. Tunisia’s president said the military would send helicopters to mountainous areas to bring vaccines to remote villages.

The United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Algeria have sent hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses and medical supplies to Tunisia. A shipment of medical aid came in by sea from Italy on Friday. France this week promised another 800,000 COVID-19 vaccines, and China promised 400,000, according to Tunisia’s TAP news agency.

As of Saturday, Tunisia had reported more than 17,000 deaths and more than 533,000 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins data.

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