Congo-Kinshasa: Public Ignores Covid-19 Despite Danger of Second Wave

(file photo).
17 November 2020

When the first Covid-19 case was announced in the DR Congo in March, many in the capital Kinshasa obeyed public health guidelines -- wearing masks, washing hands or sanitising and avoiding crowded places.

Eight months later, it appears they no longer fear the deadly coronavirus disease as they are defying the regulations.

In Kinshasa, a city of more than 12 million, two or three days go by without a new case, going by public announcements.

The decline in the numbers has induced negligence among the Congolese, who believe the pandemic did not exist in the country and that, if it does exist, it is less severe than in parts of the world such as Europe.

The people have abandoned basic requirements such as social distancing and wearing masks. In fact, they wear masks only because they may be denied entry to government buildings without them.

In addition, fewer people are turning up for voluntary testing. Only those who travel or arrive by plane and workers in public or private companies are systematically obliged to take the test.

Official data from the Technical Committee for the Fight Against Covid-19 and the response team's report show there have been 11,191 confirmed cases, 305 deaths and 10,509 recoveries.

The death rate in Kinshasa has dropped significantly, from 10 per cent last June to 2.7 per cent this week.

Long way to go

According to Doctor Jean-Jacques Muyembe, responsible for the technical secretariat for the response to the pandemic, "The disease has not yet been completely overcome in the DRC".

The famous epidemiologist believes that "like several countries in the world, DR Congo is not immune to a second wave", hence his insistence on adherence to anti-virus rules.

In the DRC, deaths were rarely recorded in poor neighbourhoods, according to the national analysis of figures provided by the Ministry of Health.

On the other hand, senior government officials appear to have borne the brunt, with the disease once infecting up to 28 of them, according to a minister who said he had recovered from it.

The government did not publicise information about the number of senior officers, including ministers and parliamentarians, getting infected, but some officials volunteered to declare their status.

Economy Minister Acacia Bandubola only revealed her status on the day she was declared cured and said the disease had killed two of her family members.

Communication Ministry spokesperson Jolino Makelele said he lost his brother.

Special diet

The poor populations found in congested areas are likely asymptomatic but many now believe they can never contract Covid-19.

The joke in Kinshasa once was that the disease only affects those with passports.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Scientific Research set up a team of researchers, doctors and dieticians who produced scientific documents and books on the best diet as the country fights the pandemic.

However, the guidelines may only be followed if the people see the need to defend themselves from what they believe is a regular flu.

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