Tunisia will impose a COVID-19 lockdown for one week from Sunday, Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi said on Friday, ahead of next week’s Eid al-Fitr holiday when families and friends traditionally gather.

Speaking at a news conference, Mechichi said measures were being taken in case “the health system will collapse, and this is a real danger”.

As cases have mounted and intensive care wards filled, Tunisia had already suspended school classes, imposed mandatory quarantine and extended a nightly curfew.

Mechichi had previously rejected another lockdown after one that Tunisia imposed last year, saying the country could not afford it.

Tunisia’s economy shrank by 8.8% last year in real terms, and the government started talks this week with the International Monetary Fund to seek a package of financial assistance.

When the government attempted to impose stricter measures last month, it was swiftly forced to moderate them after facing widespread opposition and the threat of mass protests.