Wednesday- 21st July, 2021: Tunisia's Health Minister Faouzi Mehdi has been sacked as the country struggles to cope with surging numbers of coronavirus cases.
The disease has put the medical system under severe pressure, and there have been oxygen shortages at hospitals in several provinces. Earlier this month a health ministry spokesman described the situation as "catastrophic".
Mechichi’s office announced Mehdi’s sacking in a brief statement Tuesday, 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 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.
A health ministry adviser and head of the Palais des Congrès vaccination centre in Tunis, Rafla Tej Dellagi, said the system was reaching breaking point.
"I don't think we've reached the peak and the care system is in a critical state: not only are we at about 200 deaths per day... but also patients care services, hospitalisations, oxygen beds are currently at their maximum," she said.
She said Tunisia needed to seriously ramp up its vaccination programme in order to help stem the spread of the virus.