The Tunisian health system has collapsed under the pressure of Covid-19, the country’s health ministry has said, with overwhelmed hospitals struggling to provide care amid a chronic shortage of beds and oxygen.

On Wednesday, the North African country posted a national record of 9,823 new infections and 134 deaths.

“The current health situation is catastrophic,” ministry spokesperson Nisaf Ben Alaya said during an interview with local radio on Thursday.

“The number of cases has risen dramatically. Unfortunately, the health system has collapsed,” she added.

“We are struggling to provide oxygen … doctors are suffering from unprecedented fatigue.”

She added that the “boat [was] sinking” and the situation would get worse if the response to the crisis was not united.

According to local reports, the bodies of some Covid-19 victims have been left in situ next to other patients for up to 24 hours due to hospital staff shortages.

Six Tunisian regions have been on full lockdown since June 20, while the capital Tunis was placed under partial lockdown last week.

The government said on Thursday that Qatar had donated a field hospital with 200 beds and medical supplies in a bid to alleviate the current crisis.

The Tunisian cabinet also approved a new draft law on health emergencies during a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, who himself tested positive for Covid-19 just two weeks ago.

The bill, due to be put before lawmakers on Thursday, gives the government greater powers and more flexibility in its pandemic-related procurement.

Only 4% of Tunisia’s population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, but in a statement, Mechichi said the government was doing everything materially possible to roll out more jabs.

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