Tunisia: Hospitals struggle with outbreak of COVID-19 cases

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Tunisian authorities have warned that hospitals are struggling to cope with the influx of patients who have contracted the new coronavirus, calling for respect for barrier gestures to avoid another disastrous confinement for the economy.

“The capacities of the Tunisian health system have not yet reached saturation, but we are starting to have small problems in the greater Tunis and […] on the Sousse side ”, on the Tunisian coast, said Dr Hechmi Louzir, spokesperson for the scientific committee to fight COVID-19.

“There is a lack of human resources” in the intensive care units to be able to rapidly increase hospital capacity, underlined Mr. Louzir, director of the Institut Pasteur in Tunis.

According to him, 345 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized, including 120 who require an oxygen supply.

Tunisia, which had almost contained the pandemic at the end of June with a thousand cases and fifty deaths, lifted most of the restriction measures during the summer. But the number of confirmed cases has now reached 20,000, including nearly 300 deaths.

“If we do not manage to bend this curve which is really going up, we risk being overwhelmed”, warned the doctor, stressing the importance of respecting preventive measures.

Field hospitals are to be set up in several cities, Health Minister Faouzi Mehdi said on Friday.

“The rigorous application of the measures taken by the authorities is necessary, but we count on the sense of responsibility of the citizens”, he declared, adding that the controls would be reinforced.

The wearing of the mask imposed in early August in closed public places has remained little applied by the general public as well as by some officials, and many Tunisians are calling for a stricter strategy.

Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi has ruled out general containment across the country like the one implemented in the spring, but local containments are being considered.

A curfew was imposed Thursday in the coastal regions of Sousse and Monastir, as well as in certain areas around Sidi Bouzid, in the interior of the country, with the suspension of weekly markets and the closure of village halls.

Demonstrations by medical personnel have taken place in recent days to demand, in particular, protective equipment.

“The poor public health situation prevents us from working properly,” said Othman Jallouli, secretary general of the Federation of Health Trade Unions.

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