Fighting Covid Alone: Letter from Kairouan

Late last June, when it was the region hardest hit by Covid-19, Meshkal/Nawaat went to Kairouan. The tragic situation there foreshadowed what the rest of the nation has since been living through: a sharp spike in cases made much worse by a lack of basic State services, personnel, and supplies. Without enough doctors, ambulances, vaccines or vaccination teams, protective gear or nurses, many in Kairouan faced their spike by relying on family for care, exacerbating the spread of the virus. Meanwhile, medical personnel themselves were unable to get vaccines and many worked without receiving salaries promised in their contracts.

Tunisia’s Health Minister Fired, Vax Centers Closed After Overwhelming Turnout

As Tunisians celebrated Eid on Tuesday, crowds of people took to the newly opened, walk-in vaccination centers across the country. The centers—offering vaccinations to anyone over 18-years-old for the first time—had been announced only one day earlier for a limited two-day period. But with the limited time frame, limited vaccine supplies, unclear directives from officials, and short notice given to volunteer organizers, many centers were overwhelmed with some witnessing disruptions, overcrowding, clashes, or the total freezing of operations.

Healthcare Workers Protest Amid Strike

Hundreds of healthcare staff and workers, including doctors, nurses, medical students and other staff held a protest march on Tuesday, December 8, which they dubbed a ‘day of rage’ for the Tunisian public health sector. The focus of protesters demands was on public investment in healthcare facilities, equipment and infrastructure following the death of 27-year-old surgical resident, Badr Eddine Aloui. Aloui fell to his death on December 3 from the fifth floor in the Jendouba Regional Hospital due to an elevator dysfunction.

Top Officials Contradict Each Other on Covid-19 Funds

The government began raising donations from Tunisians to help fight Covid-19 in March, but now many are concerned about how that money—just over 200 million Tunisian Dinars (TND)—has been spent. Several high level officials have issued statements that appear to contradict each other regarding how the money has been spent or whether it has been spent at all. Activists and civil society groups claim that officials are providing little transparency on this issue, and some have alleged that Covid-19 funds have been misappropriated and stolen.

Healing in Tunisia in a Time of Austerity

Suddenly my hands were red. Thick, glass shards—which moments earlier had been a smooth bowl—lay scattered across the tabletop. Small pools of blood followed me like shadows on the kitchen floor before my wife reached me with a towel and instructions to apply pressure. As she gathered car keys, my spinning head brought me to the floor. Seated there, queasy and cold, two strangers—architects my wife had been meeting—helped me wearshoes. They closed the door behind us as we sped to the hospital.

The imminent threat of Coronavirus in Tunisia

Much like the governments of other countries, the Tunisian government was hesitant in taking drastic measures to stop the spread of the disease. To its credit, it acted faster than some other countries, though some actions such as closing air and maritime routes with Italy should have been taken much sooner. My observations below are based on collecting public data applied to the specific context in Tunisia, and using some of my training as a data scientist and predictive modeler. Below I’ve provided graphics, data, and alternative models in response to some pressing questions.

With Coronavirus in Algeria and Italy, what measures has Tunisia taken?

Since it first surfaced in China in December 2019, the Coronavirus has quickly spread across the globe. Over 90 thousand cases have been reported, resulting in three thousand deaths. In Tunisia, the first case of contamination was identified on March 2nd, a Tunisian national who had arrived by boat from Genoa on February 27. In Italy, the first death caused by the virus was announced on February 22. Since then, 2,502 deaths have been reported. In Algeria, the first case of the virus was announced on February 25, with eight more cases reported since. What is Tunisia doing to prevent the spread of Coronavirus?