The economic sector in Tunisia affected by the pandemic


On one of the walls of a cemetery in Kairouan, someone wrote “hospital”. As if the difference was minimal. The death of a police officer, in front of the regional institution Ibn El Jazzar, suffocated on the ground, shocked part of the public. Proof by the image of the veracity of the alarming figures communicated by the Ministry of Health: the intensive care occupancy rate has exceeded capacity in certain regions of the country.

The second city of the country, Sousse, is in “a catastrophic situation”, according to the regional director of health with a bed occupancy rate of 96.9%. In March 2020, the then Minister of Health, Abdellatif Mekki, warned of the risk of “deaths at the doors of hospitals, the use of war medicine if part of the population persisted in not adhere to containment and curfew. When this warning was issued, the country had only 596 cases and 22 deaths. Fifteen months later, there were 14,959 deaths and 420,103 cases. “Out of control,” ” the situation is derailed “, anxiety-provoking terms are multiplying. And the solutions are not legion.

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Economically impossible containment

With 14,959 deaths, Tunisia has the worst record of the five countries that make up the Maghreb (Mauritania, Algeria, Libya, Morocco). While the situation seems under control in Algiers and Rabat, Tunis is experiencing the worst health situation. On June 30, the positivity rate exceeded 35%: 5,921 new cases in 24 hours, 116 deaths, the highest daily rate ever recorded since the start of the pandemic. The number of tests carried out in a day had never been higher: 16,050. Several factors explain this epidemic: a limited vaccination campaign (the country is dependent on deliveries), less than 5% received the two doses, barrier gestures little respected, an unequal health system depending on the region, on the verge of breakdown.

On Tuesday, a Tunisian military plane was en route to Germany to repatriate 25 respirators. The Italian authorities have been contacted by the President of the Republic. Forty tons of French medical equipment arrived in the wake of Jean Castex’s official visit, including 325,000 doses of vaccines. The scientific committee responsible for apprehending the situation met permanently at the initiative of the President of the Government. A curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. has been implemented until July 11. Nissaf Ben Alaya, spokesperson for the Ministry of Health, estimated that generalized containment would “need six weeks to be relevant”, effective, which the economic situation cannot tolerate. The governors of Greater Tunis (2.2 million inhabitants) have opted for confinement from July 1 to 14. Unless there are compelling reasons, travel will be prohibited. While the thermometer panics, 36 ° C minimum, the beginning of the holidays may look like the previous one: sluggish.

“The state has no money to renew aid”

Mouna Allani Ben Halima, general manager of Badira, a popular five-star in Hammamet, sums up the state of mind of the tourism sector: “We hoped to balance our figures with local activity, but if there is confinement the sector is cooked. The dilemma facing the government: full containment, as practiced in the spring of 2020, would wipe out the economy, would require help in return.

Tourism aid measures ceased on June 30 (support for employer contributions, partial unemployment) and should not be renewed. The entrepreneur notes that “the state has no money to renew any aid. Domestic tourism, Tunisian, could avoid the bankruptcy of a sector whose “30% of activities have disappeared in 2020”. The World Tourism Organization has predicted “50% mortality from tourism businesses. The high season – June / August – brings the country to life, both on the coast and inland. 14% of the GDP, 400,000 direct and indirect jobs according to the Ministry of Tourism, “it is one of the tripods of the Tunisian economy” specifies the central bank. Hard hit since the 2011 revolution, the sector has shown astonishing resilience despite the wave of attacks in 2015. This time around, a major restructuring will take place.

A complicated sequel

In the event of new confinement, the Kasbah was aware that it should accompany it with social assistance, which it cannot. A hypothetical IMF-type plan does not seem on the agenda, despite official requests from Tunisia. An exceptional payment could be made by the end of the school year. The World Bank indicated in October 2020 that “800,000 Tunisians would fall into poverty. Unemployment, which is not compensated, jumped to 17.8% in the first quarter. Every 24 hours, the figures of the Ministry of Health are more and more worrying.

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(Featured Image By AlexSky Going through Pixabay)

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First published in Point, a third-party contributor translated and adapted the article from the original. In case of discrepancy, the original will prevail.

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