Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi announced on Thursday, October 29, that increased coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions and an overnight curfew have been extended across Tunisia following a continued increase in infection rates in the country. The new restrictions include a ban on nonessential movement between the country's governorates, with domestic travel being limited to work-related trips and other essential journeys. The overnight curfew which was imposed in several governorates, as well as Greater Tunis, was also brought forward by an hour to 20:00 - 05:00 (local time) and extended to all areas of the country. A longer 19:00 - 05:00 curfew also applies across the country at weekends.
Other measures announced by Mechichi include a 16:00 closure time for cafes and restaurants, a ban on protests, and a four-person limit on public gatherings, with places of worship and universities, also ordered to close for two weeks. Schools will also be closed until November 8 but no time limit was announced for the other restrictions. Face masks remain mandatory in public places nationwide and most shops, hotels, cafes, and restaurants are limited to operating at less than 70 percent occupancy.
Tunisia reopened its land, sea, and air borders in June, following strict restrictions and requirements for travelers entering the country, depending on their country of origin. Authorities have categorized countries as either green, orange, or red on a travel risk traffic light system, dependent on the risk of COVID-19 transmission in these areas. Those arriving from "green" locations, which are deemed low-risk for COVID-19 transmission, will not be tested or required to self-isolate upon arrival. Those arriving from "orange" locations will be required to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 72 hours prior to departure, quarantine for at least 14 days upon arrival, and sign an official declaration. Returning Tunisian nationals are also required to self-isolate for 14 days at their place of residence. Those arriving from "red" countries are not permitted to enter the country unless they are Tunisian nationals or residents.
Having largely succeeded in controlling the spread of COVID-19 through a strict nationwide lockdown in March, Tunisia has seen a significant increase in cases of the disease in recent weeks, with an average of more than 1000 new cases per day since the end of September and up to 2000 per day over the last week. As of October 29, there have been 54,278 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country, with 1153 associated deaths. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected in the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Since then, human-to-human transmission of the virus has been confirmed.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Some patients may experience other symptoms such as body pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell, or a rash on the skin or discoloration of fingers or toes. These symptoms (in most cases mild) appear gradually. Generally, most patients (around 80 percent) recover from the disease without being hospitalized.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone non-essential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the general risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
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