Tunisia cuts curfew

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Tunisia shortened its curfew after three consecutive days without any new coronavirus cases as government relaxes a general lockdown.

The North African democracy imposed the curfew in March, aiming to slow spread of the virus keeping people at home, combined with a lockdown that shuttered all but key shops and services.

President Kais Saied cut curfew hours to 11 pm to 5 am instead of 8 pm to 6 am, state news agency TAP reported, 10 days after the start of a gradual reopening of the bureaucracy and economy.

It follows government’s announcement no new coronavirus cases were recorded for three days in a row, with 1 032 confirmed cases in total and 45 deaths.

Jalila Ben Kelil, a member of government’s advisory committee on the coronavirus crisis, said though restrictions were eased, they could be brought back if necessary.

“We are afraid of a new wave if there is slackness and people continue to disregard and disrespect social distancing by crowding public places,” she said.

Only five patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, are still in hospital in Tunisia, Ben Kelil said, attributing the country’s success in controlling the outbreak to fast, aggressive public health measures.

Government has so far kept in place restrictions on movement including closing schools, mosques, cafes and restaurants.

Tunisia entered the crisis with 500 intensive care beds equipped with ventilators and government said at the start of the outbreak the health system would struggle to cope with over 5 000 cases.

It added another 100 intensive care beds, including construction of a temporary facility at a sports centre in Tunis and improved readiness at public hospitals nationally, Ben Kelil said.

City and town centres are far busier since the lockdown was relaxed to allow a wider range of shops to open, with crowded markets and busy public beaches.

Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh said in a television interview government would require about 5 billion euros ($5.4 billion) in external funding this year, double the amount previously expected.