The health minister said earlier this month that Tunisia’s health system was “crumbling” under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic.
Tunisia’s Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi has ousted Health Minister Faouzi Mehdi amid spiraling coronavirus cases in the North African country.
The minister said earlier this month that Tunisia’s health system was “collapsing” under the weight of the pandemic, which caused more than 17,000 deaths in a population of about 12 million.
Mechichi’s office announced Mehdi’s dismissal in a brief statement Tuesday, without giving a reason for the move.
The Minister of Social Affairs, Mohamed Trabelsi, will head the minister in charge.
Mehdi had begun a temporary opening of vaccination stations to all Tunisians over the age of 18 on Tuesday and Wednesday, leading to stampede.
The minister has restricted access to vaccination to those over 40 Wednesday to prevent a new run.
Mehdi’s dismissal is another example of instability in a government that has seen several ministers resign due to tensions with parliament and the presidency.
On Sunday, Tunisia reported 117 new coronavirus deaths and 2,520 new cases, bringing the total number of registered cases to more than half a million.
Health Minister spokeswoman Nissaf Ben Alya said on July 8 that the health situation was “catastrophic”, telling a local radio station that “unfortunately the health system has collapsed”.
Some bodies of COVID-19 victims were left lying in rooms next to other patients for up to 24 hours because there were not enough staff to arrange their transfer to overly stretched mortuaries.
The Ministry of Health’s Facebook page said that the special hospitals created in recent months are no longer enough.
Following Ben Alya’s announcement, the war-torn Libyan government said it had decided to close its common border and suspend air ties with Tunisia for a week.
Many countries, from the Gulf states to the former colonial power France and Mauritania have sent medical aid.
Since June 20, authorities have imposed a total blockade on six regions and a partial blockade in the capital.
Tunisians have experienced a decade of political instability and economic crisis since their 2011 revolution that killed dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, leaving vital public services collapsing.