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Tunisia relaxes curfew after three days with no new coronavirus cases

Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh says country has managed to keep virus under control
Closure of schools, mosques, cafes and restaurants has been kept in place by Tunisian authorities (Reuters)

Tunisia shortened its nightly curfew after recording three consecutive days without any new coronavirus cases, state media said.

State news agency TAP reported on Wednesday that President Kais Saied cut curfew hours to 11pm to 5am from the former 8pm to 6am hours.

This follows the government's announcement that no new coronavirus cases have been recorded for the past three days, and 10 days after the start of a gradual reopening of the bureaucracy and economy. Tunisia has had 1,032 confirmed cases in total and 45 deaths. 

Still, Jalila Ben Khelil, a member of the government's advisory committee on the coronavirus crisis, said that although the restrictions had been eased, they could be brought back if necessary.

"We are afraid of a new wave if there is slackness, and people continue to disregard and disrespect social distancing by crowding public places," she told Reuters.

Only five patients with Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, are still in hospital in Tunisia, Ben Khelil said, attributing the country's success in controlling the outbreak to fast, aggressive public health measures.

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Tunisia is currently in a first phase of gradually reopening the country by allowing  a range of shops to open. 

The North African country imposed the curfew in March, aiming to slow the spread of the virus by keeping people at home, combined with a lockdown that shuttered all but essential shops and services.

Still, restrictions on movement, including the closure of schools, mosques, cafes and restaurants, have been kept in place.

Tunisian Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh hailed the country's management of the crisis, telling France 24 that the spread of the virus was under control.

"We remain vigilant for the time being. There's no reason to worry, the results are good when it comes to recovery and new cases," Fakhfakh said.

He added that if cases continued to decline, it could speed up the full reopening of the country. As it currently stands, the government plans to fully reopen in mid-June.

"I hope that we can continue on the same path with this same contract of mutual trust [between the government and the people]."

Fakhfakh also announced that the country would need $5.4bn in external funding this year, twice the amount it had previously anticipated.