Tunisia recorded 317 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours, a daily record since the start of the pandemic, the health ministry said on Saturday.

The ministry also reported 5 624 new cases, increasing concerns about the country’s ability to fight the pandemic, with intensive care units in hospitals completely full and a lack of oxygen supplies. The vaccination campaign is moving slowly.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the daily COVID-19 death tally in Tunisia is now the highest in Africa and in the Arab world.

The total number of cases since the start of the pandemic has reached about 560 000, with more than 18 300 deaths, out of a total population of 11.6 million.

This month several European and Arab countries have sent medical aid and more than three million doses of vaccine to help Tunisia tackle the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

Tunisian President Kais Saied said on Wednesday that the military health department will take over management of the health crisis in the country amid a COVID-19 outbreak – an escalation of a battle over powers with the prime minister.

Saied’s comments come after Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi sacked Health Minister Faouzi Mehdi on Tuesday amid an exchange of accusations over performance in the fight against the pandemic and the slow pace of the vaccination campaign.

Mechichi accused Mehdi, who is close to Saied, of making”criminal” decisions that led to overcrowding and chaos at vaccination centres.

But Saied, who is at odds with Mechichi over their respective powers and political alliances, said that violence, chaos and overcrowding in vaccination centers in Tuesday was orchestrated by people within the political system.

“The Military Health Department will take over the management of the health crisis in the country”, he said in comments to Saudi-owned broadcaster Al Arabiya during a visit to a vaccination center in Tunis.

Tunisia received aid this month from Europe and Arab countries, which included about three million vaccine doses, and field hospitals as it suffers its worst financial crisis ever and it is on the verge of bankruptcy.