As the holidays approach, many French people of Algerian origin wonder if they will soon be able to visit their loved ones on the other side of the Mediterranean. Others are still stuck on the spot, without being able to return to France. However this week, almost a month after the first measures of deconfinement, Algiers announced that the country’s borders would remain closed “until God (them) frees them from this scourge”. A decision that puts an end to hopes of resumption of air and maritime traffic with Europe.
Algeria, whose borders have been closed since March 19, is however part of a proposed list of 14 countries whose travelers would be admitted to the European Union on July 1. Even if the EU has for the moment postponed its final decision on this list, lack of agreement between Europeans on the exclusion of certain States. But according to official figures, Algeria is also plagued by an outbreak of Covid-19 infection.
Indeed, if the overall balance sheet is much lower than that of France, contamination records fall day after day at this time, for a total of 13,571 proven infected and more than 900 deaths since the first case on February 25. For example, 305 new Covid-19 cases were diagnosed in 24 hours on Sunday.
Prohibited demonstrations have taken place
But in Algeria, where the anti-regime movement “Hirak” continues, the management of the coronavirus epidemic has taken a very political turn. Sunday evening, President Abdelmadjid Tebbboune denounced “the behavior of certain citizens who want to make others believe that the Covid-19 is only a myth with political aims”. An accusation undeniably targeting the popular movement when it is trying to re-mobilize in the provinces.
On social networks, it is true that part of the population is opposed to preventive measures and claims that the virus is a state invention to stifle Hirak.
All demonstrations have been strictly prohibited since mid-March. But several rallies have already taken place, even if they were less regular than the weeklies on Friday before the coronavirus.
“Relaxation” and stronger sanctions
The Algerian president ordered “the toughening of sanctions against all offenders”. The wearing of a sanitary mask has been compulsory since May 24 and offenders are already sentenced to heavy fines.
Abdelmadjid Tebbboune also urged Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerrad to take measures to “break the chain of contamination and contain the outbreaks of epidemics”, according to the press release from the Council of Ministers. “It is the result of a relaxation and a kind of carelessness in particular in certain wilayas (prefectures) like Sétif and Biskra”, had estimated Thursday the president of the Council of the Order of the doctors Mohamed Bekkat.
A curfew is in place in 29 of the 48 prefectures in the country. And the government advised local authorities on Monday to “target containment of localities, municipalities or neighborhoods with homes or clusters of contamination ”.
A real danger
On the health professional side, “everyone is out of breath. Doctors are at the end of their rope. The hospital structures are outdated, “testifies the boss of the Council of the Order, judging that” the institutions of the State have been somewhere failing “.
As for the economic impact, many have already lost their sole source of income. For those who worked in small trades in the informal sector and had no social security coverage, “the impact is terrible,” even economist Mansour Kedidir believes: “They were precarious. Today, they are in extreme poverty. Charitable associations and neighborhood committees across the country are collecting donations for the poor.
Air traffic is not about to resume. Air Algérie, the national airline, could lose 89 billion dinars (612 million euros) by the end of the year. “It is a precautionary measure which will most certainly protect Algeria from imported cases. Covid-19 is a disease imported into Algeria by two immigrants from France, “recalls the president of the Council of the Medical Association.