Tunisia reported its first confirmed case on March 2, 2020. Thanks to proactive actions from the Tunisian authorities in taking the necessary sanitary steps, declaring a national state of emergency, and adopting confinement measures, the pandemic has remained contained, with a low number of daily contamination cases mostly coming from abroad. Tunisia began on June 4, 2020 a strategy of deconfinement and the reopening of borders was effective on June 27, 2020. The COVID-19 shock came at a time when Tunisia was already facing persistent macroeconomic imbalances.
Reopening of the economy. On April 29, the national security council announced several measures to ease economic restrictions by adopting a three-phased plan depending on the activity sector. The first phase started on May 4 and concerned the most affected sectors–individuals and craftsmen, manufacturers especially export firms, with the obligation of adopting sanitary measures. The second phase began on May 24 and concerned supermarkets, cafés, and other individuals for which the social distancing would be hard to establish. The third phase of full deconfinement started on June 4. During the transition period, only 50 percent of the public sector got back to business. On June 27 Tunisia started easing international travel restrictions and opening frontiers progressively, classifying countries in three lists according to the pandemic risk and applying different measures for each list.
On August 21, the government has decided to make mandatory the wearing of masks in administrations and most public and commercial places following the reopening of the borders which led to a further increase in the number of new cases in Tunisia.
Tunisia is facing a second wave of the COVID-19 propagation, with an exponential increase of new cases, as well as deaths. Accordingly, the new government announced a series of measures, including (1) prohibition of gathering of groups in public/private places (e.g., sports, culture); (2) mandatory mask wearing in public (e.g., transport, workplace); (3) cohort work arrangement and reduced hours for government personnel; (4) targeted confinement or curfew; and (5) increasing the number of treatment beds to 1,200 by end-October.
Covid-19 Vaccine distribution plans. On January 21st, 2021, the Ministry of Health announced a nationwide Covid-19 vaccination campaign. The vaccination would be free for all the population; it aims at covering 50 percent of Tunisians over 18 years old (about 6 million people) and will cost about USD 111 million in 2021 and 2022. On March 13, 2021 Tunisia launched, with a delay of one month, its vaccination campaign starting with health professionals in the front line against the pandemic and elderly people. The Tunisian authorities have also received more than 300,000 doses as of April, 1st and secured the purchase of more than 10 million doses.
Tunisia, which has seen a sharp increase in the number of Covid-19 positive and deaths, is facing a third COVID-19 wave since the beginning of April, 2021, and the health infrastructure is becoming overloaded. In addition, the government fails to accelerate the vaccination campaign due to the lack of vaccines and delays in receiving them. Accordingly, the prime minister announced on May 5th 2021 a total lock down for one week, with a prohibition of inter-city travel.