Eighteen members of Tunisia’s Parliament have tested positive for the virus, the body’s doctor, Maher Ayadi, announced on Tuesday.

Several cases among lawmakers were reported following a full parliamentary session on Oct. 2, one of only two such meetings held such July. A number of lawmakers had announced that they tested positive on Facebook.

Tunisia has seen a sharp spike in virus cases in recent days. Of the 32,556 cases reported since the start of the outbreak, more than 10,000 were reported in the last seven days, according to a Times database.

The country had been an exception in the region, reporting very few cases at the start of the pandemic. Tunisia quickly imposed a strict lockdown, including a nationwide curfew and the closure of international borders for almost two months.

But after reopening the borders in June, the country began to report new cases linked to international travel. The authorities imposed a two-week nightly curfew in several cities last week to halt the uptick.

Only a few hundred intensive care beds are available throughout Tunisia, and doctors have expressed concern that the health care system is at risk of being overloaded.

In a meeting of officials tasked with fighting the coronavirus on Tuesday, Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi announced that people who do not wear masks in public spaces will be fined starting this weekend.

He added that it was important to balance health and economic concerns as the country confronts the surge in cases, and to “help every sector over the economic crisis.”

Source: The New York Times

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