Tunisia’s president and a powerful labor union on Friday urged the government to review the 7pm curfew it has brought in to slow COVID-19 infections, which they say will hit shops, cafes and restaurants in the month of Ramadan that starts next week.
The intervention of President Kais Saied and the UGTT union followed a gathering of hundreds of workers in the city of Sousse who said they would keep shops and cafes open, and after protests in el-Kef, Monastir and Mahdia.
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Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi’s government announced the tougher health restrictions on Wednesday to combat a surge in new cases, bringing the nightly curfew forward to 7pm from 10pm and barring public gatherings and markets.
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Hospital intensive care units are nearly full, and Tunisia has only slowly rolled out a national vaccination campaign.
During Islam’s holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast by day and traditionally gather with friends or family in the evenings, frequenting street markets and eating out.
A cafe owners’ syndicate linked to another union, UTICA, said the curfew would leave 400,000 workers without jobs during Ramadan.
The government has said it will give $70 each to thousands of workers in a bid to avoid social unrest of the kind that broke out across the country in January.
Tunisia faces an unprecedented financial crisis, with a budgeted fiscal deficit of 11 percent this year adding to its already large public debt as political infighting complicates work on a reform program aimed at reassuring foreign lenders.
“There is a scientific side. But there is also a social and economic side... the night-time curfew should be reviewed,” President Saied told Mechichi.
Noureddine Taboubi, head of the UGTT union which has a million members, said the decision would hit the vulnerable and should be reviewed.
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