Doctors, health workers protest working conditions, call for vaccines
Tunis, Mar 2 (efe-epa).- Hundreds of Tunisian doctors and healthcare workers on Tuesday gathered in front of the health ministry to protest the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The participants in the rally, organized by the Tunisian Organization of Young Doctors, called for healthcare workers to be inoculated, more medical supplies and more effective measures to fight the coronavirus.
The march began at the Faculty of Medicine and ended in front of the ministry headquarters, where they staged a sit-in.
The health workers denounced work conditions that have not improved despite the death of a doctor who was treating coronavirus patients in December at a hospital in the northwestern province of Jendouba, calling for his family to be compensated and a hospital to be named in his honor.
Their demands also include the formation of a national public health reform commission as well as improving the financial and health situation of young doctors.
The protest came as the Union of General Practitioners announced it would boycott a coronavirus vaccination campaign that will get underway within days once the country receives a batch of vaccines through the World Health Organization COVAX mechanism.
The boycott and the protests came amid a controversy sparked after the United Arab Emirates sent dozens of doses of the coronavirus vaccine through its embassy in Tunis allegedly to be administered to senior officials.
The head of the Parliamentary Commission for Administrative Reform Badreddine Gammoudi revealed that a Gulf country had “sent a batch of coronavirus vaccine that was distributed among senior officials, politicians and security officials”.
Both the President of the country, Kaïes Said, and Speaker of the Parliament Rachid Ghannouchi denied on Monday they have been inoculated. Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi said he was not aware of the batch and ordered a probe into the matter.
Gammoudi, however, insisted on Tuesday that the government was aware of the situation. Customs confirmed the entry of the doses in Tunisia, but indicated that the Emirati embassy and not the presidency had received them.
Tunisia is the second worst hit African country by the coronavirus with over 8,000 deaths due to the virus and over 220,000 infections, mostly registered after reopening the borders on 26 June.
Before reopening the borders, the Health Ministry had reported around 1,200 cases and 50 deaths. EFE-EPA