Algeria cancels all sports, cultural, political gatherings due to virus

Cases in Algeria and Tunisia linked to expatriates.
Tuesday 10/03/2020
Algerian paramedics wearing protective outfits are pictured inside an ambulance in front of El-Kettar hospital in the capital Algiers on February 26, 2020. (AFP)
Algerian paramedics wearing protective outfits are pictured inside an ambulance in front of El-Kettar hospital in the capital Algiers on February 26, 2020. (AFP)

TUNIS - Algeria on Tuesday announced it would cancel a range of public events including political gatherings as a precaution against the spread of the new coronavirus.

"All sports, cultural, political gatherings are called off. All exhibitions and fairs are cancelled. We're taking no risks," Health Minister Abderahmane Benbouzid announced.

Algeria has 20 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 17 members of the same family linked to confirmed cases of Algerian nationals in France with the disease.

The ministers said football matches could go ahead but only behind closed doors.

"It's official, these are recommendations that will be confirmed by the youth and sports ministry," the health minister told a forum in Algiers organised by a government newspaper.

"The president (Abdelmadjid Tebboune) has instructed us to ban all gatherings, including at stadiums," he said.

"We are still at phase one, a fact-finding and surveillance phase. We've started to build up a stock of masks and medication. It's an advantage for us to start early when we have only 20 cases."

Four of the cases registered in Tunisia have also been linked to Tunisians living in Italy and France.

After six confirmed cases, Tunisia has decided to stop flights from and to Italy, except for a limited number from Rome, and to suspend school classes starting Thursday.

(With news agencies)