How Tunisia went from Pandemic Success to Regional Curfews…

Article Highlights:

  • Tunisia chooses regional curfews instead of a country wide shutdown.
  • Tunisia’s Prime Minister on Monday ordered a curfew starting from Tuesday in all regions of the country.
  • Coronavirus cases are surging in Tunisia, which had managed to contain the virus earlier in the year.

Tunisia Pandemic Success

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

On Monday, October 20th Tunisia’s Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi had to address the media to clarify an important point. Over the weekend various media outlets reported that Tunisia would enforce a country wide curfew. This rang alarm bells for many including security professionals like myself that monitor the situation in Tunisia from a security risk management perspective.

Coronavirus cases have been surging in Tunisia, which had managed to contain the virus earlier in the year, and have now reached more than 40,000.

Tunisia Under Regional Curfew

Instead of a country wide curfew, the Prime Minster stated that he gave governors the power to order Regional Curfews in response to the surge of coronavirus cases.

Tunisia’s Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi on Monday gave regional governors the power to order curfews starting from Tuesday to combat the coronavirus pandemic, his office said.
  • Much of Tunisia is under a curfew in effect from 21:00 to 05:00 (local time) Monday to Friday, with a longer 19:00 to 05:00 curfew in place at weekends, for 15 days until October 23.
  • Face masks remain mandatory in public places nationwide. Schools remain closed though universities have reopened following strict hygiene measures. Nonessential businesses are permitted to resume operations at 70 percent capacity. Restaurants and cafes have reopened, following social distancing regulations. Public transport is also operating at 50 percent capacity. 

Early Celebration?

Not too long ago Tunisia was receiving praise from many media outlets and world leaders for their successful response to the first wave of the pandemic.

Here’s a headline from June 15th: Tunisia has beaten coronavirus: prime minister, Elyes Fakhfakh announces country’s victory over COVID-19.

For months, Tunisia was viewed as one of the first countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) to successfully contain the coronavirus outbreak. I even wrote an article about how the “Tunisian Model” could potentially be used by the travel industry as a case study of how to operate post COVID.

The country recorded zero new cases for five consecutive days starting May 11, completed its deconfinement plan between May 4 and June 14, opened its borders for tourism starting June 27, and resumed normal economic activity.

By August I was ringing the alarm bells!

As of July 17, Tunisia had performed over 81,300 tests. It had recorded 1,327 total contaminations, 1,093 recovered patients, and 50 total deaths. Compared to the rest of the region, Tunisia has good COVID-19 mortality and recovery rates (3.8 percent and 82.4 percent respectively). 

What Happened?

The first cases recorded in Tunisia was in early March. Giving credit where credit is due the government responded swiftly with a comprehensive set of measures aiming to slow the virus’ progression. The Tunisian response included:

  • Suspension of all travel,
  • mandated working from home for non-essential workers,
  • closed mosques, imposed mandatory confinement and nightly curfews,
  • shut down schools and businesses, and banned public gatherings.
  • Military and police forces were tasked with ensuring that these instructions were followed.

And then Summer happened…

On June 27, Tunisia reopened the country’s international land, sea, and air borders. Tunisia’s Minister of Tourism Mohamed Ali Toumi has tried to reassure foreigners that the country is ready and safe for tourism while promoting the country’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The chains of the virus transmission are primarily linked to gatherings, including weddings. Chains of transmission have also been observed in some factories.”-Nissaf Ben Alaya, director general of the National Observatory for New and Emerging Diseases

Moving Forward

Tunisia hopes that by giving regional governors the power to order curfews they will restrict night time gatherings without shutting what is left of their economy.

As if the pandemic wasn’t bad enough, Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi said on Sunday that his country is undergoing a critical financial situation as a result of the ongoing stifling crisis which has led to a reduction in the 2021 budget. 

This will only make the situation even more challenging!

We will continue to monitor the situation in Tunisia by providing up to date analysis and support. Currently, our COVID-19 Security Portal which provides advanced tactical and in-depth forecasting, is proving to be an effective tool for organizations operating in Tunisia.

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