Tunisian President Says Military Will Take Over Administration Of COVID-19 Disaster

People wait to be tested for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in front of a mobile testing laboratory in Tunis, Tunisia, Oct. 7, 2020.REUTERS / Angus McDowall / File Photo

TUNIS, July 21 (Reuters) – Tunisian President Kais Saied said Wednesday that the military Ministry of Health will take over management of the country’s health crisis amid a COVID-19 outbreak – an escalation of a power struggle with the prime minister.

Tunisia is struggling with a virus flare-up, full intensive care units and overwhelmed doctors with a rapid rise in cases and deaths and a lack of oxygen.

Saied’s comments come after Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi fired Health Minister Faouzi Mehdi on Tuesday amid an exchange of allegations about performance in fighting the pandemic and the slow pace of the vaccination campaign.

Mechichi accused Mehdi, who is close to Saied, of making “criminal” decisions that led to overcrowding and chaos in the vaccination centers.

But Saied, who disagrees with Mechichi over their respective powers and political alliances, said violence, chaos and overcrowding in vaccination centers was staged Tuesday by people within the political system.

“The military health ministry will take over the management of the health crisis in the country.”

Tunisia received aid from Europe and Arab countries this month spanning around three million doses of vaccine and field hospitals as it suffers its worst financial crisis ever and is on the brink of bankruptcy.

The North African country has reported around 18,000 deaths and more than 550,000 coronavirus infections since the pandemic began.

Out of a total of 11.6 million inhabitants, only 940,000 people have so far been fully vaccinated.

Reporting by Tarek Amara; Adaptation by Angus MacSwan

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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