Tunisian President orders army to deal with virus crisis | World news
By BOUAZZA BEN BOUAZZA, Associated Press
TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) – Tunisian President on Wednesday ordered the military to take over management of the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as the country battles one of Africa’s worst epidemics .
The military health service will be responsible for this task, Tunisian President Kais Saied announced on the regional television channel Al Arabiya.
Soldiers and military doctors are already giving vaccinations in remote areas of Tunisia. On Tuesday, military trucks transported oxygen to areas in the center and northwest of the country where hospitals are suffering from shortages.
Meanwhile, an acting health minister replaced the health minister on Wednesday who was sacked for his surprise decision to open vaccination centers to all adults for the first time this week during the Muslim holiday of the ‘Eid al-Adha.
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Authorities were unprepared for the decision, causing confusion and chaos as crowds gathered at vaccination centers. The president called it a “crime” to encourage large groups to come together as the government tries to limit the spread of the virus.
Eid al-Adha, or the “Feast of the Sacrifice,” is usually marked by community prayers, large social gatherings, the slaughter of cattle and the distribution of meat to the needy. This year, Tunisian authorities have restricted gatherings and reinstated curfews in some areas with a high number of confirmed cases.
In yet another blow to Tunisia’s long-suffering tourism sector, authorities have closed some of the country’s Mediterranean beaches.
The former health minister’s decision to open vaccination centers during the holidays has led to clashes in some places between people seeking to be vaccinated before doses run out and health officials trying to ” apply anti-infective measures.
Windows and doors of some vaccination centers have been smashed and doctors and paramedics have been assaulted in some places, said opposition lawmaker Saifeddine Merghni, a doctor.
“The least that can be said is that the decision (to open vaccination centers on Muslim feast day) is bad, and you see the repercussions,” he said. “The day of joy (Eid Al-Adha) turned into a day of great tension.”
The queue at the only vaccination center in the central city of Kairouan was so long that Ali ben Haj, 63, was making his third attempt to get the vaccine and grew impatient.
“Look at everyone. Why all of this? What have we done? You authorities, if you cannot find solutions for us, let us seek solutions ourselves, ”he said.
Overall, Tunisia has reported more deaths per capita than any other African country and among the highest per capita daily death rates in the world in recent weeks. Foreign countries have provided vaccines and other medical aids.
Mehdi El Arem has contributed from Kairouan and Tunis.