Tunisia braces for 3rd Covid wave with Ramadan on horizon

Tunis, Apr 5 (efe-epa).- A surge of Covid-19 infections and related deaths is threatening to cast a shadow over Ramadan in Tunisia as the country gears up for the holy month of abstinence and prayer amid the pandemic.

Ramadan, which ts year falls between 13 April and 12May, is usually a time of mass travel as people head home to break the fast each evening at sunset with family members, but this tradition poses an added risk of spreading the coronavirus further, Nissaf ben Alaya, the head of the Observatory for New and Emergent Diseases, warned.

“The epidemiological situation in Tunisia is very dangerous. The indicators for the spread of the virus have deteriorated notably,” she said, according to local media.

Official data suggest the number of infections has shot up by 22% in recent weeks and the mortality rate increased to 75.3 per 100,000 people.

Ben Alaya said the virulent British variant of the coronavirus had fueled a surge in hospital admissions in 17 provinces and 95 municipalities, where the health system is struggling under the burden.

Authorities on Saturday reported 1,709 new Covid-19 caes and 1,480 hospital admissions, of which 352 were ICU and 111 were placed on a ventilator, according to the health ministry.

Ben Alaya highlighted the need to accelerate the vaccine rollout in the North African country and raised concerns about the flexibility of restrictions and border controls.

Only 80,000 of 11 million Tunisians have received a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to official data.

The first to receive vaccines in Tunisia are people with chronic underlying health issues and front-line medical workers.

However, a batch of Covax-supplied AstraZeneca vaccines destined to be administered to the two high-risk categories has been put on hold due to apparent concerns over its efficacy,  the assistant director of the National Union of Health Professionals Alaeddine Rouissi told the press.

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