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Tunisia faces calls to investigate officials' free vaccine from UAE

A sign indicates the way to the coronavirus vaccination service at al-Barsha Health Centre in the Gulf Emirate of Dubai on 24 December 2020. [GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images]
A sign indicates the way to the coronavirus vaccination service at al-Barsha Health Centre in the Gulf Emirate of Dubai on 24 December 2020. [GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP via Getty Images]

Tunisian MPs have called for an investigation into allegations that senior state officials received 1,000 free doses of the coronavirus vaccine from the UAE at the beginning of February. This, the MPs insist, is an act of "high treason".

The presidency in Tunis confirmed that it has received the doses, but pointed out that President Kais Saied refused to take the vaccine, preferring to pass them to health workers, who are the group most affected by the pandemic. His family and the Presidential Court are also covered by this refusal.

"If the news that some politicians exclusively received the coronavirus vaccine is correct, then this is an unprecedented ethical failure that amounts to high treason," said the head of Tunisia's parliamentary Anti-Corruption Committee, Badreddine Gammoudi. He had said in an earlier post on Facebook, "The coronavirus vaccines have arrived a while ago from a Gulf country. The information is almost certain, and the vaccines were given to senior officials, politicians, and security leaders. The people have Allah to protect them."

Radio Med quoted diplomatic sources as confirming that the political class in Tunisia received the coronavirus vaccine from an unnamed Arab Gulf country, indicating that the doses were allowed into the country in coordination with the customs authority. The radio station quoted Mabrouk Korchid MP, who confirmed the news.

"The UAE ambassador to Tunisia informed Tunisian diplomats that his country offered 1,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine as a gift to the Presidency of the Republic," said Yassin Ayari MP on Facebook. "I learned about it from them a few days ago. I do not see that the matter is a scandal or a problem in itself. The president of the republic, the prime minister, the ministers, the members of the Supreme Council of the Armies, are not ordinary citizens, not in their physical persons but for their capacity closely linked to Tunisia's national security."

READ: Egypt approves Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine

The MP added that a gift from a foreign country is nothing new. "Tunisia and other countries receive donations every day. What is truly regretful is the lack of transparency. We hear about the matter through leaks, from a radio station or the head of the Parliament's Anti-Corruption Committee, or through what the UAE ambassador to Tunisia tells diplomats. Who took the vaccines and on what basis? Why did the presidency of the republic conceal the matter?"

Another MP, Khaled Gassuma, called for an investigation into political leaders and MPs who allegedly obtained the vaccine. "By all accounts, some officials, political leaders and deputies may have received Covid-19 vaccinations, and not even one government official stepped up to debunk the allegations, which means that the rumours surrounding some government officials and political leaders who are were given the vaccines are closer to the truth."

The official in charge of communication with the presidency, Reem Kassem, confirmed to Shems FM radio that 1,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine had been received from the UAE at the beginning of February, but denied that President Saied and his family and advisers had been vaccinated.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Othman Jarandi in Tunis confirmed that Algeria has agreed to share its shipment of the coronavirus vaccine with Tunisia.

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AfricaCoronavirusMiddle EastNewsTunisiaUAE
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