Since April, Tunisia has faced a sharp rise in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. The Ministry of Health described the health situation as “very dangerous” with hospitals being at almost full capacity. To flatten the curve, the authorities—again—announced new containment measures that include a national curfew, school closure, travel restrictions. But few believe it will be enough.
Unlike wealthy countries, there are no relief schemes to support workers and businesses to stay afloat. With unemployment already high and the cost of living skyrocketing, the most vulnerable have barely received ad-hoc small state assistance, and people are left to fend for themselves to survive. Therefore, the prospect of catching the virus is less of a concern than the necessity of carrying on and making a living.
Though Tunisia imposed a stringent lockdown at the onset of the pandemic and for a while kept the spread of the virus low at a high price for the economy, there is now a wide feeling of powerlessness and fatigue. “If I don’t go out and work who is going to give me money?” asked Salah, a Tunisian builder who, like the majority of workers, relies on daily earnings.