Influx of patients, bodies left for hours in the middle of the sick for lack of space in the morgue, lack of staff: in Tunisia, hospitals are beginning to be overwhelmed in the face of the spread of Covid-19, which is reaching unprecedented levels. The Ibn Jazzar hospital in the confined region of Kairouan (center) had such an influx of patients that “some of them die without realizing it”, deplores a nurse, Imen Fteiti. Bodies remained in the rooms for up to 24 hours, due to a lack of personnel to take them to an already full morgue.
Tunisia has recorded an unprecedented number of daily deaths since the start of the pandemic a year and a half ago, bringing the toll to more than 15,000 deaths for 12 million inhabitants, and more than 600 people currently in intensive care. The official number of total cases exceeds 445,000. The field hospitals set up in recent months are no longer sufficient : 92% of resuscitation beds in the public are currently occupied and those in the capital are full. Some municipalities are innovating. In Kram, the village hall is transformed into a field hospital for people with Covid. Faced with this wave assimilated to a “tsunami”, the authorities confined six governorates where the rate of spread of the virus is particularly high, including Kairouan. Doctors, nurses and NGOs have sounded the alarm in Kairouan. An online prize pool has been organized.
“There is a lack of oxygen equipment and we have reached a stage where we do not know who to rescue first”Imen Fteiti, nurse
to the AFP
Daily oxygen consumption has reached a level of 5,500 liters per day, up from 400 to 500 before the start of the new peak two weeks ago, according to the regional health administration in Kairouan. In this marginalized region, health establishments, both public and private, have only 45 resuscitation beds and 250 oxygen devices, according to health authorities. A sports hall has been converted into a hospital. At the Ibn Jazzar establishment, there are three nurses for every 35 people with Covid. The daily number of deaths has reached twenty, including children, in Kairouan, where the streets are almost deserted, the souks and shops closed. “The situation was very delicate and the intensive care beds saturated”, recognizes the regional director of health, Mohamed Rouiss.
Hospitals in neighboring governorates have been mobilized to distribute patients, “but today the situation is complicated because these hospitals, in turn, are overwhelmed”, says Mohamed Rouiss. Sousse, a seaside town 60 kilometers away, was also placed in total containment and the security services prohibited access to the main beach. The strip of white sand dotted with parasols is empty, auguring a catastrophic second season for tourism, the lung of the Tunisian economy. In Tunis as in the disadvantaged regions of Béja or Jendouba (north-west), hospitals are also struggling to cope with the influx of patients, according to videos posted by local media and on social networks. Shortage of doses, lack of awareness: out of 593,000 inhabitants of Kairouan, only 95,000 are registered for vaccination, half of whom have had at least one dose. Nationwide, 575,000 people have had two doses, about 4% of the population.
Several voices are being raised in Tunisia for a general reconfinement in order to “to avoid a catastrophe”. The Scientific Commission calls for drastic measures. President Kaïs Saïed rules out the option because of the deteriorating socio-economic situation. “We are in a state of war, let’s be honest, the war has several phases, we lost one, for several reasons, but we will triumph !”, did he declare.