Tunisia PM sacked health minister over skyrocketing coronavirus cases

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than 17,000 deaths in a population of about 12 million

TUNIS, Tunisia’s government stumbled deeper into crisis over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, with premier Hichem Mechichi sacking the health minister amid skyrocketing cases in the North African country.


Mechichi, whose office had announced Faouzi Mehdi’s sacking in a brief statement on Tuesday evening, slammed the minister’s performance, pinpointing a critical lack of oxygen at Tunisian hospitals and a slow rollout of vaccines.


“There’s an extraordinary level of dysfunction at the head of the health ministry,” Mechichi told health officials in footage published on his Facebook page late Tuesday.


Tunisia has been facing an overwhelming Covid-19 caseload that has left more than 17,000 people dead in a population of around 12 million.


The country’s hospitals have faced acute shortages of oxygen, staff and intensive care beds, and fewer than eight percent of the population are fully vaccinated.


Mehdi’s sacking came a day after the start of a temporary opening of vaccination stations to those over 18, to mark the Eid al-Adha Muslim festival.


But that led to stampedes at some of the 29 vaccination centers, where jab stocks quickly ran dry.


Mechichi slammed the program as “populist” and “criminal”.


Meanwhile Tunisia’s decaying health facilities have been swamped with coronavirus patients.


In some cases, bodies of victims have been left lying in hospital wards next to other patients for up to 24 hours because there were not enough staff to organize transfers to overstretched mortuaries.


According to Our World in Data, Tunisia currently has the third highest rate of daily Covid deaths per population in the world, after Ecuador and Namibia although the World Health Organization has said it is more transparent with its data than many other countries.


Tunisia’s crisis has pushed countries from Gulf states to former colonial power France and even cash-strapped Mauritania to send medical aid.


The government of war-torn neighbor Libya in early July closed their shared border and suspended air links with Tunisia over the rocketing caseload.


Tunisia has also struggled to get its coronavirus vaccination campaign off the ground.


Source: NAM News Network