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Tunisia: president describes vaccination crowds as a 'crime'

Tunisian President Kais Saied speaks during a ceremony in Tunis, Tunisia on March 22, 2021 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]
Tunisian President Kais Saied speaks during a ceremony in Tunis, Tunisia on March 22, 2021 [Yassine Gaidi/Anadolu Agency]

Tunisian President Kais Saied has described the crowds resulting from the Health Ministry's Vaccination Open Days as a "crime against Tunisia". He told Al-Arabiya that "influential people" were seeking to "spread the virus throughout the country" one day after the dismissal of the health minister.

"Gathering citizens in this way was a process orchestrated by influential people within the political system that does not aim to vaccinate people, but rather spread the infection further," claimed Saied. "Some parties have plotted the details so that the stampede and overcrowding would take place." The "political epidemic" in Tunisia, he added, has more of a dangerous impact than the coronavirus pandemic.

Several vaccination centres in Tunisia witnessed overcrowding by people who came in numbers beyond expectations to get vaccinated. This led to the closure of the centres and the suspension of the vaccination campaign.

The Tunisian health ministry had designated Tuesday and Wednesday (the first and second day of Eid Al-Adha) to vaccinate all individuals over 18 years old, provided that they had registered on the Evax online platform. Once registered, individuals normally receive a message to inform them of the vaccination date and centre to go to in order to avoid overcrowding and make the process more orderly. To-date, the campaign has only targeted people over 50 years of age.

Health Minister Fawzi Mahdi was dismissed on Tuesday. The Minister of Social Affairs, Muhammad Trabelsi, was appointed in his place. Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi also described Mahdi's decision to vaccinate citizens on Eid Al-Adha as "a criminal act".

As of Tuesday, the number of recorded coronavirus infections in the country was 554,991, with 17,821 fatalities and 443,979 patients recovering. Out of a population of 11.7 million, only 2.4 million have been vaccinated, 825,410 of whom have had a second dose.

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