Tunisia has announced a partial lockdown from Sunday for the week-long Eid al-Fitr holidays, due to a surge in coronavirus infections that threatens to overwhelm the country’s healthcare system.
Announcing the measure on Friday, Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi said Tunisia was going through “the worst health crisis in its history”.
Mosques, markets and non-essential businesses will be closed under the new restrictions, which come as Muslims mark the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, Mechichi told reporters.
“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.
More than 500 people are currently in intensive care, an unprecedented number that has required medics to set up field hospitals, and the North African country is struggling to meet the demand for oxygen.
The new Covid-19 lockdown would restrict travel between regions, gatherings and celebrations are also prohibited, with a 7:00 pm to 5:00 am curfew imposed.
Tunisians are encouraged to leave their homes only for what is strictly necessary, government spokeswoman Hasna Ben Slimane said.
The Mediterranean country, with a population of around 12 million, has recorded more than 300,000 coronavirus cases and over 11,200 deaths.
Tunisia’s economy has lurched from one crisis to another since the country’s 2011 revolution, with GDP estimated to have contracted by a record 8.2 percent last year.
According to the latest figures released by the Health Ministry in Tunisia, about 225,900 people have been administered the coronavirus vaccine since the launch of the national vaccination drive on March 13.