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Tunisian hospitals grapple with surge in Covid 19 cases

A Tunisian member of the medical staff attends to a coronavirus patient   -  
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FETHI BELAID/AFP or licensors


Health workers in Tunisia are under immense pressure to treat and save COVID-19 patients, as cases soar during the country's severe second wave.

In Sousse, a city 150 km (93 miles) south of the capital Tunis, doctors and nurses at the Farhat Hached University Hospital said lessons had been learned from the initial phase on how to treat coronavirus patients.

But the overwhelming workload, combined with a shortage of staff, was making life much harder this time around.

Nurses deal with 17 or 18 patients a day, sometimes without a break, according to Sadok Khdhir, supervisor of the emergency services at the hospital.

Zied Mezgar, its head of emergency services, said staff had now been working "tirelessly and without interruption" for 14 months.

The rising infections are raising alarm at a time when the government is facing unrest among youth nationwide over poverty and lack of jobs.

The government has re-implemented preventive strategies - including physical distancing, a curfew at night and the banning of meetings and demonstrations among others - in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus in the North African country.

The country of 11 million people has reported more than 219,000 cases and 7,378, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

It has one of the highest death rates in the region.

Tunisian authorities have given emergency authorization to use Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, but have not yet ordered any doses, a health official said Friday.

Meanwhile, the country is expected to get its first deliveries — 93,000 initial doses from Pfizer-BioNTech — in mid-February, followed by about 600,000 doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, according to the director of the Pasteur Institute in Tunis, Dr Hachemi Louzir, who is overseeing Tunisia's vaccination program.

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