First batch of Covid-19 vaccine arrives in Tunisia

The shipment comes as Tunisia eases lockdown restrictions, lifting a mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine for all incoming travellers

epa09064017 Tunisian Minister of Health Faouzi Mehdi (L) next to the boxes with Sputnik V coronavirus vaccines upon their arrival at Tunis-Carthage airport in Tunis, Tunisia, 09 March 2021. Tunisia has received 30,000 doses of Russian coronavirus vaccines Sputnik V. The Tunisian Minister of Health Faouzi Mehdi says the vaccination campaign will be launched this Saturday 13 March and that health personnel will have a priority to be vaccinated.  EPA/MOHAMED MESSARA
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Thirty thousand doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine arrived at Tunis Carthage International Airport on Tuesday evening, the Ministry of Health announced.

It is the first shipment of vaccine against the coronavirus for Tunisia.

The delivery came as lockdown restrictions were eased, lifting a mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine for all incoming travellers and pushing the start of movement restrictions back from 8pm to 10pm. They end at 5am as before.

The initial consignment will be followed by another 500,000 doses in coming weeks, a statement from the office of the president said.

One of the last countries in North Africa to start its inoculation campaign, Tunisia was initially set to receive 94,000 doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines through the UN-led Covax initiative.

Those shipments, scheduled for mid-February, were delayed, leaving the country scrambling to find alternatives.

The doses promised under the Covax initiative are free of charge to the government. In their absence, the other doses were procured with a $100 million credit from the World Bank. The government also drew 30 million dinars ($10.8m) from the state budget to obtain more doses,  Health Minister Faouzi Mehdi said.

The vaccination campaign will begin in the next few days, said Mr Mehdi in a plenary session of the House of People's Representatives on Monday.

Twenty five vaccination centres have been set up around Tunisia, along with mobile teams to ensure vaccine delivery to remote areas. Inoculations will be free of charge.

More than 238,000 cases of the coronavirus have been reported in Tunisia over the last year, with a death toll of 8,225.

In addition to the Russian vaccine, Tunisia is set to receive a donation of 100,000 doses of China's Sinovac vaccine.

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