Arab Countries Pledge Aid as Tunisia Struggles with COVID Pandemic

A man receives a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at a vaccination centre in Tunis; Tunisia; April 26; 2021. Picture taken April 26; 2021. REUTERS/Jihed Abidellaoui

Several countries promised to help Tunisia fight the coronavirus on Friday as the north African country recorded its highest daily death toll since the pandemic began; putting its health care system under severe stress and depleting oxygen supplies.

President Kais Saied said in a statement that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had pledged to send vaccinations and whatever medical equipment Tunisia needed; reported Reuters.

Libya also pledged to send medical aid; the president’s office said in a separate statement. Officials and local media said that Kuwait; Turkey and Algeria had promised to help.

Qatar had already sent a military plane with a field hospital on board; including 200 medics and 100 respirators.

After successfully containing the virus in the first wave last year; Tunisia is now grappling with a rise in infections.

It imposed a lockdown in some cities starting last week; but rejected a full national lockdown over concerns about the impact on the economy.

A catastrophic situation

Tunisia recorded 189 deaths on Friday; the highest daily toll since the pandemic began last year. It reported 8;500 new coronavirus cases.

“We are in a catastrophic situation … the health system has collapsed; we can only find a bed in hospitals with great difficulty;” health ministry spokesperson Nisaf Ben Alaya said.

“We are struggling to provide oxygen … doctors are suffering from unprecedented fatigue;” she said. “The boat is sinking.”

The total number of coronavirus cases so far in Tunisia has climbed to around 480;000; with more than 16;000 deaths.

Vaccinations lag far behind other countries. So far; only 715;000 people have received two doses out of a total of 11.6 million residents.

The president’s office said last week that the United States pledged to donate 500;000 vaccination doses.