Severity: Critical Alert

Entry/Exit: Authorities in Tunisia begin second phase of easing restrictions related to COVID-19 from May 25 by allowing certain businesses to reopen.

This alert affects Tunisia

This alert began 21 May 2020 17:44 GMT and is scheduled to expire 15 Jun 2020 23:59 GMT.

  • Incident: COVID-19 Restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Significant transport and business disruptions, heightened security

Summary
On May 21, authorities in Tunisia announced that beginning May 25 they will begin the second phase of easing restrictions related to coronvirus disease (COVID-19). During the second phase, businesses that reopened at 50-percent capacity during the first phase will be authorized to operate at 75 percent capacity. Restaurants and cafes can also reopen so long as they observe the country's social distancing guidelines. Universities will be authorized to reopen beginning May 28.

Tunisian authorities began their first phase of easing COVID-19 restrictions, May 4, by reopening select sectors such as the food industry, government offices, public transportation, and construction. The first phase, which will last until May 24, also includes the reopening of shopping centers and clothing stores May 11. Individuals, however, must wear masks and maintain social distancing. Public transportation will only operate at 50-percent capacity to avoid overcrowding. Officials will reopen more sectors in the second and third phases, which will run from May 24-June 4 and June 4-14, respectively.

Other measures taken by the government of Tunisia include:

  • On May 13, authorities shortened the nationwide curfew of 2000-0600 to 2300-0500, which will remain in place until further notice.
  • Authorities previously imposed a stay-at-home order March 21-May 3. Public gatherings were limited to three people, except for individuals working on curbing the spread of COVID-19. The stay-at-home order prohibited residents from leaving their homes but allowed them freedom of movement to perform essential tasks, such as purchasing groceries or medications and obtaining medical treatment.
  • Intercity and intergovernorate travel is still restricted.
  • Critical services, such as banks, gas stations, and grocery stores, as well as government functions, including police and emergency services, remain operational.
  • Authorities have established specialized quarantine centers throughout the country to isolate and treat those infected with COVID-19.
  • Tunisia closed its land, air, and sea borders until further notice March 16; the measure only affects passenger traffic and does not apply to ground or air freight transport.
  • All private and public schools have also shut down.


Authorities could reimpose restrictions if the number of cases increases in the coming days.

Background and Analysis
Tunisia's travel restrictions and preventive measures are similar to actions other governments are taking globally in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Advice
Strictly heed the instructions of authorities. Avoid all nonessential travel in the areas impacted by the measures. Confirm appointments. Remain courteous and cooperative if approached and questioned by law enforcement officers.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.


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