- Tunisia, a nation of 11 million people that has just over one doctor per thousand people, where North Africa’s first COVID-19 case was reported, is one of the most successful nations in the fight against the coronavirus.
- Its infection and death rates are lower than that of New Zealand.
- Experts say its success was down to a swift and firm response.
- Now lockdown measures are being gradually lifted.
- But the country’s borders remain sealed until at least June 15.
- No new cases since May 10, only 300 active cases remaining in country, foreign minister says in letter to WHO chief.
The first confirmed case of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Tunisia reported in March 2nd.
But what might have been a recipe for a health disaster has turned into a relative success story of the pandemic. By May 10th, Tunisia had reported 1,032 cases and 45 deaths. Today, the country reached over than 700 fully recovered cases.
It’s a record on a par with that of New Zealand, widely regarded as a paradigm for effectively managing the virus. New Zealand has a way lower-sized population and had very similar stats.
The number of people recovering from coronavirus in Tunisia has recently outpaced the number of new cases. By May 11th, the total number of people who had recovered was close to 80% of the overall cases reported in the country.
So how has Tunisia been so successful in containing the virus? Tunisian tech entrepreneur Saber Ben Hassen, has no doubt about the reason for his nation’s resilience.
“The key here is how quickly the government responded and how seriously they took the situation from the get-go,” he says in a published tweet. “Few countries, even success stories like South Korea, have been as successful as Tunisia in slowing the curve.”
Tunisia banned mass gatherings on 9 March and, on March 17th, declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew and full lockdown, under which people were told to work from home, and schools and all non-essential businesses were closed. The country’s borders were subsequently shut.
Tunisia has carried out almost 33,818 coronavirus tests. With the number of new cases falling, the government decided to partially lift the lockdown.
From May 4, several businesses have been allowed to reopen, but customers must keep two metres apart at all times. Public transporation resumed partually and are only allowed to use a quarter of their seating capacity.
Stores and commercials are also allowed to resume trading but must only have half as many customers as their venues can accommodate. Even auto workshops are limited in the number of cars they can service, at their capacity.
Reuters reported PM Fakhfakh as saying: “We have had relative and fragile success, but we cannot let our guard down.”
The borders will remain closed until at least June 15 and restrictions on driving, intended to prevent people from spreading the virus, remain in force. Driving at night is banned and drivers may only drive on certain days if their licence plate ends in a particular number.
Border closures are a blow to the nation’s normally thriving tourism industry, which greatly contributes to the economy. Overall, the lockdown is forecast to reduce the nation’s GDP by almost 5% this year.
Still, Tunisia’s success holding the virus at bay is in contrast to neighboring countries, especially from the European side of the Mediterranean.
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