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Algerian leader flies home after weeks away with COVID-19

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune arrives for the opening of the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and the Government of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa

ALGIERS (Reuters) -President Abdelmadjid Tebboune returned to Algeria on Tuesday after two months in a German hospital being treated for COVID-19 during a period of political and economic crisis.

State television showed him at a military airport outside Algiers sitting in an armchair and wearing a suit after his arrival.

Tebboune flew to Germany in late October days after saying he was self-isolating because aides had tested positive for the coronavirus.

It was the last Algerians saw of, or heard from, their president until mid-December when he appeared in a brief video clip looking gaunt but saying he had recovered.

His long absence fuelled speculation that he would be unable to finish a presidential term that began a year ago with his election during a period of mass protests against the ruling elite.

The weekly demonstrations, demanding an end to corruption, the overthrow of the old ruling elite and the army’s withdrawal from politics, only stopped in March when Algeria imposed a lockdown because of COVID-19.

Algeria, an oil and gas producer, had faced a looming economic crisis even before the global pandemic, with annual spending far exceeding the declining revenue from energy sales.

Tebboune had promised a series of reforms to help diversify the economy. He is expected this week to sign next year’s budget law and to soon approve dates for coming local and parliamentary elections.

(Reporting by Lamine Chikhi, writing by Angus McDowall, Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Angus MacSwan)

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