Algeria president returns from Covid treatment in Germany
President Abdelmadjid Tebboune returned to Algeria and appeared on television on Tuesday after a two-month absence in Germany, where he received treatment for Covid-19.
"It is hard to be far from one's country and even harder for someone who has a lot of responsibility," Tebboune said, according to footage broadcast after he arrived from Berlin at around 6:00 pm (1700 GMT).
Seemingly in good health, Tebboune, who looked to have regained weight since his last television appearance over two weeks ago, was greeted by several senior Algerian officials, including Prime Minister Abdelaziz Djerad and army chief of staff Said Chengriha.
The president spoke briefly, wishing "a happy new year to all Algerians", "much better than 2020", and implying that he was almost cured of the virus.
He made his last televised appearance on December 13, looking visibly thinner after weeks in treatment, saying he was "on the road to recovery" .
Tebboune, aged 75 and a heavy smoker, was hospitalised in Germany on October 28, and Algerian authorities later announced he had the Covid-19 illness.
He had finished his treatment and left hospital at the end of November, but extended his stay in Germany for a period of convalescence.
His prolonged absence had sparked concerns of an institutional crisis, after voters in November approved a revised constitution on record low turnout in a referendum widely seen as a manoeuvre to neutralise a long-running protest movement.
Fears of crisis
Tebboune has been unable to sign the revised constitution into law because he must be on Algerian soil to do so.
He also has until December 31 to sign off on a 2021 budget.
His absence came as Algeria faces a sharp recession due to the novel coronavirus pandemic and a gaping budget deficit due to low crude prices that have slashed the country's vital oil revenues.
Tebboune won last year's widely boycotted December 12 presidential election, following months of mass protests that had swept his predecessor Abdelaziz Bouteflika from office.
Tebboune's disappearance had reminded many Algerians of Bouteflika's frequent hospitalisations abroad.
Mass protests broke out in early last year against the ailing octogenarian's bid for a fifth term in office.
The rallies led by what came to be known as the Hirak movement continued well beyond Bouteflika's April 2019 resignation, and were only suspended when the coronavirus pandemic struck.
Algeria has officially recorded 98,988 cases of the novel coronavirus and 2,745 deaths.