Tunisia strengthens virus restrictions ahead of Ramadan

TUNIS, Tunisia — Tunisia is extending its nighttime curfew by three hours and tightening other restrictions ahead of Ramadan following an uptick of COVID-19 infections.

The measure will apply from 7pm until 5am, from Friday until at least April 30.

Government spokeswoman Hasna Ben Othman also announced other measures late Wednesday, including a ban on all public and private gatherings, the shuttering of weekly markets, and stronger enforcement of mask-wearing and social distancing.

Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi has ruled out a new nationwide lockdown, given what he described as the country’s difficult economic situation.

The Muslim holy festival of Ramadan starts next week. The month of religious fasting usually sees large crowds gathering in shops, cafes and public spaces, and nationwide family gatherings.

According to the latest figures published on Wednesday by the Tunisian Health Ministry, the number of COVID-19 deaths stands at more than 9,000, with overall infections at nearly 265,000 in a population of 11.7 million.

Health Minister Faouzi Mehdi said that 80% of hospital intensive care beds are currently occupied, adding that Tunisia expects to receive a donation of 30 ICU beds Thursday from the United States.

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