TUNIS, Jan 12 (Reuters) – Tunisia will re-impose a night curfew and ban all gatherings for two weeks starting from Thursday to counter the rapid spread of COVID-19, the government said on Wednesday in a move critics decried as aimed at stopping protests.
The ban on gatherings and a request to avoid travel within the country except for emergencies comes two days before a planned demonstration against President Kais Saied called by major political parties.
Tunisia imposed a curfew during the first wave of the pandemic in 2020 and again for much of last year but lifted it in September as cases dropped.
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Its new curfew will be in place for at least two weeks and run from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. each night.
The government's perceived poor response to the pandemic, including a botched vaccine roll-out, raised the political pressure before Saied dismissed parliament and seized broad powers in July in moves his critics call a coup.
Leaders of two parties that had joined the call for protests on Friday accused the government of restoring the health restrictions for political reasons.
"We will be on Revolution Street to protest whatever the cost," Ghazi Chaouachi, the head of Attayar which had 22 of the suspended parliament's 217 seats, told reporters, using a nickname to describe the capital's Habib Bourguiba Avenue.
The measures were intended "to prevent a wave of popular anger that they can only confront by citing health conditions", said the leader of the smaller Joumhouri Party, Issam Chebbi.
Register now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.comRegisterReporting by Tarek Amara, writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Toby Chopra and Alison Williams