April 29, 2020 / 12:54 PM / a month ago

UPDATE 1-Tunisia to partially reopen economy from next week

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TUNIS, April 29 (Reuters) - Tunisia will start relaxing its coronavirus lockdown next week, reopening parts of the food and construction sectors and allowing half of government employees to return to work, it said on Wednesday.

Its lockdown, in place since March, has stopped 25,000 cases of the virus and 1,000 deaths, Health Minister Abdelatif el-Makki said on television. Tunisia, which has about 500 intensive care beds, has confirmed fewer than 1,000 cases in all.

“Tunisia has controlled the first wave of the pandemic, but we do not know about a possible second wave,” he said.

The lockdown will begin to be eased on May 4. Further easing after May 11 will include clothing shops and malls, said Lobna Jribi, the minister in charge of major projects, in the same broadcast.

Public transport will partially reopen from May 4, she said.

“The plan is we can open the economy gradually, but still control the pandemic,” Jribi said.

Tunisia’s economy is expected to shrink by 4.3% this year as a result of the crisis, according to the International Monetary Fund. (Reporting By Tarek Amara, writing by Angus McDowall, Editing by William Maclean)

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