Tunisia’s health system has “collapsed” under the weight of the COVID-19 pandemic, the health ministry said on Thursday, describing the virus’s affect on the country as “catastrophic”.
On Tuesday alone, Tunisia recorded 9,823 cases and 134 deaths, its worst daily toll from the virus. Hospitals in the North African country have seen a significant influx of patients over the past two weeks.
The country of 12 million people has suffered nearly 465,000 cases and 15,735 deaths.
“We are in a catastrophic situation … The health system collapsed, we can only find a bed in hospitals with great difficulty,” ministry spokesperson Nisaf Ben Alaya said.
“We are struggling to provide oxygen … Doctors are suffering from unprecedented fatigue,” she said, adding “the boat is sinking” and calling on all Tunisians to unite in efforts to combat the pandemic.
“The health situation will get worse if efforts are not united,” she added.
Some bodies of COVID victims have been left lying in rooms next to other patients for up to 24 hours because there was not enough staff to organise their transfer to overstretched mortuaries.
The health ministry’s Facebook page said special field hospitals set up in recent months are no longer enough.
Since June 20, authorities have imposed a total lockdown on six regions across Tunisia, including Kairouan, as the number of COVID cases spiralled.
The capital Tunis has been placed under partial lockdown since last week, with weekend lockdowns from July 10 to prevent crowding at beaches.
Across Tunisia, only 4 percent of the population have received the full two doses of vaccine.
Cases surging in Africa
Coronavirus cases have been rising in Africa since the start of the third wave on the continent in May.
During the week ending July 4, more than 251,000 new COVID-19 cases were recorded on the continent, a 20 percent increase over the previous week and a 12 percent jump from the previous January peak.
Sixteen African countries are now seeing a resurgence of the virus with the more contagious Delta strain detected in 10 of them.
South Africa is the worst-hit country in Africa with new daily infections hitting record highs of 26,000 cases over the weekend, spurred by the Delta variant.
Vaccination rates remain sluggish with only 16 million people – 2 percent of the African population – fully vaccinated.