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EU pledges $280m to Tunisia's battle against coronavirus

Tunisia has so far declared five deaths from Covid-19, among 227 people confirmed to have been infected by virus
Road leading to airport near Tunis is deserted this week amid efforts to contain spread of coronavirus (AFP)

The EU said on Saturday that it would grant 250m euros ($280m) to Tunisia to help fight the deadly new coronavirus and the adverse socioeconomic effects of a lockdown.

The bloc's Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi pledged the aid in a telephone call with Tunisia's Foreign Minister Noureddine Erray, according to a joint statement issued by the EU delegation in Tunis and the ministry, Reuters reported.

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Tunisia has so far declared five deaths from the Covid-19 respiratory disease, among 227 people confirmed to have been infected by the virus.

Tunisia has closed schools, universities, cafes and bars, shut its land and maritime borders and suspended international flights to try and slow the spread of the disease. It also banned travel between cities while imposing a nighttime curfew and a national lockdown.

Last week, Tunisia allocated $850m to combat the economic and social effects of the crisis.

Tunisia expects the virus to damage its tourism sector, which accounts for about 10 percent of gross domestic product.

The country also anticipates an economic recession, prompting the government to reduce its growth forecast this year to 1 percent from 2.7 percent.