Burundi expels WHO, Tanzania's president calls for prayers to 'vanquish' COVID

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Burundi has ordered the expulsion of the World Health Organisation expert team co-ordinating the country's response to the coronavirus pandemic, while the president of Tanzania has called for attendance at places of worship because “prayers can vanquish” the virus.

The Burundi Foreign Ministry, in a letter to World Health Organisation Africa headquarters, said the UN agency's representative in Burundi and his three colleagues “are declared persona non grata and as such, must leave the territory of Burundi.” A report on the News24 site notes that the announcement comes ahead of the national election. Rights groups say the government is pressing ahead with the vote no matter the cost, and accuses the ruling party and its youth wing of crushing dissent and threatening those taking their own measures against coronavirus.

Meanwhile, BBC News reports that Tanzania President John Magufuli has accused health officials of exaggerating the crisis and has repeatedly urged people to attend services in churches and mosques because “prayers can vanquish” the virus. The WHO has also expressed concern about the government's handling of the crisis.

The US embassy has advised Americans living in Tanzania to stay at home and limit interactions with people other than those they live with. It went on to claim that hospitals in Dar es Salaam are overwhelmed and warned that due to the limited capacity of the healthcare system in the country, patients may face life-threatening delays for medical care.

The East African Community (EAC) has agreed to prioritise the implementation of measures that will ensure uninterrupted cross-border movement of goods as the region continues to battle COVID-19. EAC leaders, including Uhuru Kenyatta (Kenya), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) and Salva Kiir Mayardit (South Sudan) have acknowledged the challenge posed by cross-border trade in the fight against the virus, especially the emergence of truck drivers as a high-risk carrier population.

CapitalFM reports that they have tasked their respective state agencies responsible for health and transport to roll-out border screening and testing measures especially for truck drivers that do not compromise cross-border movement of goods. ‘We continue to actively enforce contact tracing which has proved to be very effective in identifying those who have come into contact with infected persons,’ Kenyatta said.

The Kenyan Government says it is in talks with union officials representing health workers to avert a strike, a move which could paralyse hospitals amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Health chief administrative secretary Mercy Mwangangi said the Ministry is aware of the critical role the health workers are playing during the pandemic, and stressed that their concerns will be prioritised.

“Healthcare workers are the heartbeat of this response and so we are in discussions and negotiations with them to evaluate their concerns and to be able to come to a middle ground where we can move forward with this,” Mwangangi said. CapitalFM reports that the workers are protesting over the lack of personal protective equipment in the hospitals. Some have been forced to purchase their own equipment.

The Ivory Coast has lifted an almost two-month curfew in its main city Abidjan. However, nightclubs, cinemas and bars will remain closed to fight the pandemic. A report on the News24 site notes that the National Security Council said traditional open-air restaurants would be allowed to reopen. Abidjan, known as the “Paris of West Africa” for its vibrant nightlife and world class restaurants, will, however, remain isolated from the rest of the country. Schools will reopen on 25 May but the country's borders would remain closed until the end of the month. The country has recorded 1,912 confirmed cases.

Gaborone has been put back on a lockdown after the country recorded a new COVID-19 case. Presidential COVID-19 task team co-ordinator Kereng Masupu said the capital city was declared a high-risk area and put under lockdown with immediate effect.

This was after a truck driver from South Africa tested positive for COVID-19. A report on the IoL site notes that he entered Botswana through the Tlokweng border. Since then he had made contact with several other people.

Zimbabwe will receive a $13.7M grant from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to bolster its health system in the fight against THE COVID-19 pandemic, reports Polity. The grant will strengthen support for frontline responders and health personnel and boost the country’s Global Health Security Index.

The grant will be utilised under Zimbabwe’s COVID-19 Response Project (CRP) and targets 15 high-density suburbs in Harare, satellite townships and health facilities in other parts of the country and will boost capacity in prevention and management protocols including more handwashing facilities.
The project will be carried out by the World Health Organisation and Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and Child Care will act as executing agency. The CRP is expected to directly benefit over 680,000 people.

The CRP will provide COVID-19 medical equipment, laboratory test kits, personal protective equipment, handwashing facilities through the rehabilitation or construction of boreholes, and training of healthcare personnel and laboratory technicians at a community level.

Zimbabwe has already introduced a national lockdown which has closed schools, restricted the movement of people, restricted business operating times and the closure of pubs, restaurants and churches. Public gatherings have been limited to 50 people.

Full CapitalFM report

Full CapitalFM report

Full report on the News24 site

Full report on the News24 site

Full report on the IoL site

Full BBC News report

Full Polity report

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