Burundi: Surge in COVID 19 Cases As Schools Set To Reopen .
By Egide Harerimana
In a press release of issued on 9 September, the Burundian health ministry announced that covid-19 positive cases have increased in the last two weeks. The pandemic hits as the 2021-2022 school year is expected to start on 13th September.
“The covid-19 epidemiological situation is marked with an increase in number of positive cases, more especially in the city of Bujumbura and other urban areas of the country,” said Thaddée Ndikumana, Burundian Minister of Public Health.
He added that the data of the last two weeks show that the positivity rate has jumped from 3% to 5%.
For him, the main reason is the ignorance of preventive measures as well as other high-risk behaviors and practices that promote the virus spread.
The minister of public health also said that some people disobey self-quarantine instructions after testing positive for covid-19. “There are also people who once tested positive for covid-19 do not show up for treatment and continue to circulate as if nothing happened,” he added.
Thaddée Ndikumana called on the population to respect all measures to curb covid-19. One of those measures is to regularly wash hands with clean water and soap or chlorinated water. He also reminded people to keep physical distancing in public places and wear a mask that covers nose, mouth and chin.
The cabinet meeting that took place on the 8th of September also expressed a concern over the increase of covid-19 positive cases. “In urban areas, there are more people who violate barrier measures against covid-19. Consequently, there has been an increase in positive cases during the dry season,” reads the press release issued after the meeting.
The cabinet also decided that ceremonies and feasts be held only at weekends to limit the spread of covid-19.
It called on all ministers to mobilize the staff in their ministries over mandatory respect of barrier measures to halt spread of the virus.
Screening centers shouldn’t be zones of contamination
Schools shall open on this 13th of September despite the growing number of covid-19 positive cases in the country.
Screening for pupils who attend boarding schools has started on 10th September and will end on 14th September 2021 in the whole country.
In Bujumbura city, there has been a high number of people who undergo a covid-19 test at the three screening centers since the last weeks. Adding a number of pupils has complicated the job. Some people fear that screening centers may also serve as high-risk zones of contamination.
On the first day of testing boarding schools’ pupils, measures to stamp out covid-19 were violated at different screening centers in Bujumbura, the economic capital of Burundi.
11 a.m. on the 10th of September at the screening center based at Ruziba hospital in the urban commune of Muha. In front of tents where the screening is conducted, girls and boys were in small groups. They talked, laughed and sometimes shook hands. Many did not wear masks. And others wore them inappropriately. They couldn’t cover the mouth and nose. Physical distancing did not exist. A big crowd could be seen in front of the tents where they waited for results.
“There is much disorder. I brought my children to test for covid-19 but I am afraid they may contract the virus on the spot”, said a woman met at the same screening center. She also deplored insufficiency of washing kits as there was a high number of people who frequented the place.
According to her, respect for barrier measures should be everyone’s concern. “Otherwise, the screening centers are likely to be zones of contamination,” she regrets.
The situation was the same at another screening center operating in Bwiza locality of urban commune of Mukaza. Because of a high number of people, measures to prevent covid-19 were breached. Many pupils had no masks. There were long queues without physical distancing. Contamination risks were, in fact, enormous.
“The ministry of health should find another center for the exclusive screening of the pupils. This center already welcomed a large number of people every day. Adding students is risky,” said one person met at the center.
He called on the ministry in charge of public health to ensure that screening centers are not source of covid-19 spread.
At the screening center operating near Kamenge hospital in the north of the city, students were many to have coronavirus screening. Like at other centers, physical distancing was not respected.
“The field is large enough to host those who come for covid-19 test. However, respect for barrier gestures remains a concern,” said a member of staff. He regretted that some people downplayed covid-19 pandemic.
The minister of health called on students and pupils to keep doing regular covid-19 tests at hospitals and health centers nearby their schools.