BREAKING NEWS: COVID-19: Tunisia health minister sacked

Tunisia’s Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi sacked Health Minister Faouzi Mehdi on Tuesday, Mechichi’s office said, amid spiralling coronavirus cases in the North African country.

The ministry said earlier this month that Tunisia’s health system had “collapsed” under the weight of the pandemic, which has caused more than 17,000 deaths in a population of around 12 million.

Mechichi’s office announced Mehdi’s sacking in a brief statement, without giving a reason for the move.

It said Social Affairs Minister Mohamed Trabelsi would head the ministry in a caretaker capacity.

Mehdi had initiated a temporary opening of vaccination stations to all Tunisians over 18 for Tuesday and Wednesday, leading to stampedes.

The ministry finally restricted access to vaccination to those aged over 40 on Wednesday to avoid a new rush.

Mehdi’s sacking is another instance of instability in a government that has seen several ministers resign over tensions with parliament and the presidency.

On Sunday, Tunisia reported 117 new coronavirus deaths and 2,520 new cases, bringing total recorded cases to more than half a million.