A Tunisian doctor working on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic has brought a smile to patients’ faces by playing the violin on hospital wards.
Dr Mohamed Salah Siala, 25, started work at Hedi Chaker Hospital in the eastern city of Sfax in January – and instantly boosted morale among patients when he brought along his violin.
“Playing the music here contributes to the patients’ feeling of joy and to forget the pain,” said Rachid Arous, who is recovering from Covid-19. “It’s a wonderful thing.”
In his spare time away from medical duties, Dr Siala plays the violin enthusiastically and is a member of a group called the Pepper Band.
“My goal is to use music to help treat corona(virus) patients that are in a bad psychological condition, suffering loneliness — which is their first enemy,” Dr Siala told The Associated Press.
Dr Siala now plays regularly in the hospital, when he has time.
Walking through the corridors with his violin, Dr Siala’s music helps not just the patients but also health workers.
They have been under pressure in the last few months because of the increased number of virus cases that spiked at the beginning of the year.
However, there is more than the violin to bring hope to the North African country.
Tunisia is showing signs that the virus is in decline. In recent days, it recorded one of the lowest rates of new infections in several weeks.
According to the Ministry of Health, 725 new positive cases were detected on Thursday in the population of almost 12 million against a peak of more than 4,100 new cases in mid-January. Likewise, the death toll fell to 35, from a daily average of 70 — and the peak of 103 deaths one month ago.
With the exception of the intensive care beds, which are still filled up, the oxygen beds are no longer as crowded as before, because many patients are being cared for at home. Currently, 1,264 Tunisians are in hospital – including 287 in intensive care and 111 on ventilators.
The country is also expected to get its first deliveries of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines this month. Those are part of a broader arrangement with the Covax global vaccine programme for developing countries and the African CDC that Tunisia hopes will bring in as many as 7 million vaccine doses in the coming months.
In the meantime, patients can rely on Dr Siala to bring hope and resilience with the strokes of his bow.
“He plays to entertain us a little bit almost every day. I pray to God to protect him, and I wish you all that God protect you from this disease,” said Brika Sdiri, clapping and smiling while listening to the music.
“I hope to get out of this place in good health, that’s what I wish.”