Algeria to give part of its COVID-19 vaccine doses to Tunisia

Tunisian Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi reported that the shipment is expected to arrive by the end of the month
Atalayar_Kais Saied, presidente de Túnez

AP/FETHI BELAID  -   The President of Tunisia, Kais Saied

"Algeria has not yet acquired the vaccines, but as soon as it receives them, it will share them with Tunisia", said Tunisian Foreign Minister Jerandi after a meeting with the president of the North African country Kais Saied on Wednesday evening. "It is a strong commitment by Algeria to the brotherhood between our two countries", he said.

According to Jerandi, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune himself has been following the initiative closely, although the Algerian authorities have not confirmed this.

Tunisia, which has changed its health minister twice since the start of the pandemic, announced a vaccination campaign for the second quarter of 2021 and is making a serious diplomatic effort to acquire the vaccine in time. The US-German Pfizer/BioNtech has already received the go-ahead from the Tunisian authorities. The government ordered the purchase of two million doses that are expected to arrive in time for the start of the vaccination campaign, Hechmi Louzir, director of the Pasteur Institute in Tunisia, told AFP. 

The North African country is also in talks with Russia for the purchase of Sputnik V, Health Minister Faouzi Mehdi reported. 

President Kais Saied has stressed on several occasions the need to "acquire the vaccine urgently" and choose the best one from a health point of view, "without entering into political considerations". 

Algeria, for its part, has already placed an order for two batches of vaccine, one from Russia and the other from China, both of which have been the country's allies for decades. The Algerian health minister assured that the first batch of Sputnik V will arrive in the country at the end of January. The vaccination campaign in Algeria will begin immediately, but no official date has yet been set. 

Algeria has recorded more than 100,000 infections since the beginning of the pandemic and 2,800 people have died. Tunisia, where the population is four times smaller, is facing an increase in cases, reaching 168,000 infected and more than 5,400 deaths since COVID-19 arrived in the country. 

In the first wave Tunisia only recorded 65 deaths and the peak of new infections was on 24 March with 59 infections. The good data presented by the country earned it an entry on the list of safe countries drawn up by the European Union. The virus was virtually eradicated from Tunisian territory thanks to the strict containment applied by the authorities, which included an overnight curfew.

However, the turning point came at the end of June when the authorities opened the borders after four months. Only one month later, at the beginning of August, the positive cases multiplied mainly due to the arrival of foreign tourists.  

Since then the virus has spiralled out of control and the current alarming figures have led the Tunisian government to order a general confinement of four days from yesterday until 18 January. 

Tunisia, which this week marks the tenth anniversary of the demonstrations that put an end to the Ben Ali regime, is now facing serious difficulties in combating the virus. Endemic corruption, political tension and the financial crisis the country is experiencing are not helping in this task

In Algeria the second wave arrived in July, a month before it reached the neighbouring country, when it began to record an average of 450 cases daily, a figure similar to the worst recorded in the first wave. The Algerian government allowed mosques, beaches and parks to be reopened, thus relaxing containment measures.