Intensive care units in Tunisian state hospitals reach 80% of capacity

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People wait to get tested for COVID-19 outside a mobile testing lab in Tunis
People wait to get tested for COVID-19 outside a mobile testing lab in Tunis

TUNIS (Reuters) - Beds in intensive care units (ICU) in Tunisian public hospitals are about 80% full as COVID-19 cases surge, the health minister said‮ ‬on Wednesday, calling the situation "critical".

Tunisia has just 181 ICU beds, of which 145 are now being used by patients, Fouzi Mehdi told reporters.

Coronavirus cases have been rising fast in Tunisia, which had managed to contain the virus earlier this year, and have now reached 45,000 cases and 740 deaths.

The government imposed a curfew this month in the capital to slow a second wave of the pandemic.

But Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi said he will not impose another lockdown, saying the economic cost it too high, with the economy expected to shrink by 7% this year and the fiscal deficit to double to about 14%.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Louise Heavens and Alex Richardson)