By Egide Lucky
On an evangelical crusade organized by CNDD-FDD (national council for the defense of democracy-forces for the defense of democracy), the ruling party in Burundi, Evariste Ndayishimiye called on the population to do covid-19 test before they display symptoms. People request decentralization of screening centers.
“Covid-19 may not end soon. We must find ways to survive amidst this pandemic. Even influenza and malaria came and stayed with us,” said Evariste Ndayishimiye, president of the republic of Burundi, on 30th September.
He recommended that whole focus should not shift onto covid-19: “There is malaria and tuberculosis that have also been killing many people.”
President Ndayishimiye assumed that he undergoes coronavirus screening three times a week. He, thus, called on population to do the same.
“It is surprising that some intellectuals take covid-19 for granted. They wait until they exhibit visible symptoms before they go to hospital for a test,” he said. He exhorted them to do a regular test before they develop symptoms.
He deplored that there are physicians who misbehave when treating covid-19 patients: “Some physicians are not serious. When a patient comes, they start testing other diseases, do different screenings so they can make much money from him/her. The covid-19 test is then done when a patient is already in a critical situation.”
The population asks the government to increase the number of screening centers
In many provinces, people denounce that covid-19 test is done only at district hospitals far from their homes and neighborhoods. Some provinces have two or three hospitals. Some people have to trek many kilometers to reach them. They ask the ministry of health to equip health centers based in communes with screening kits and staff.
“Hospitals are far from our communities and don’t have enough labor force,” says a young lady living in Makamba province, south of Burundi.
According to one man from Bururi province, still in the south of the country, suffering from covid-19 in the countryside is more dangerous: “My parents contracted covid-19 last month. I took them to the only hospital in our commune. Unfortunately, the hospital had no medicines used to treat corona virus. I had to buy them at a drugstore in Bujumbura city, but they were too expensive”.
He calls on the ministry of health to equip community health centers with enough kits, medicines and staff so covid-19 patients be screened and treated in their neighborhoods.
Barrier measures are still breached in public places
In a meeting with administrators and chiefs of localities on 14th September, Jimmy Hatungimana, mayor of Bujumbura City, regretted that covid-19 positive cases were considerably increasing. “I think everyone here has at least a relative who has suffered from covid-19. We have to be careful. Visit hospitals and you’ll realize how dangerous this pandemic is,” said the mayor of Bujumbura.
He announced that wearing a mask in public places would be mandatory since then. “Whoever will not wear a mask in public places shall be fined BIF 100,000,” declared Jimmy Hatungimana before a public where very few people had worn masks. He added that washing hand kits must be placed before houses, shops and offices.
However, the mayor’s decision has been quashed in different places in Bujumbura city. People still go to churches, mosques, markets and stadia without masks. Seldom is social distancing respected.
In schools, barrier measures to prevent the covid-19 spread are violated. Classes are overpopulated. Physical distancing is difficult. Students and pupils do not wear masks in classes.
“We can’t oblige pupils to wear masks in classes. For some, it may be difficult to study with masks on their mouths. Also, physical distancing is impossible in a class of 80 pupils. A bench must be shared by three pupils,” said an anonymous high school principal in Bujumbura city.
The situation is the same in public transportation. For fear of policemen, passengers buy masks and keep them in pockets or bags. When the bus reaches a police control stop, they wear them to avoid punishment or fine.
Administration in different provinces has taken measures to halt spread of covid-19. From north to south of the country, governors of provinces and administrators keep reminding people to wash hands regularly, avoid shaking hands and kissing, keep physical distancing and wear masks in crowded places. However, there is still fragrant violation of the barrier measures.
According to some medical staff working in rural areas, covid-19 positivity rate is likely to speed up in the countryside if no crucial decisions are taken.
“Many people do not believe that covid-19 is real. They ignorantly breach barrier measures. This is the reason why the number of positive cases and deaths keeps increasing,” says a health expert working at one hospital in Bujumbura city. He regrets that decisions to halt the covid-19 spread and curb the pandemic are more political than clinical.
As a reminder, first covid-19 cases were reported in Burundi in March 2020. According to World Health Organization (WHO), only 14 people have died from the virus.