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Burundi’s new president, Evariste Ndayishimiye.

Covid-19 Developments in Burundi:

The late president of Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza, almost certainly died of Covid-19. While the Burundi government has not confirmed this as the cause of death, the fact that the only ventilator was rushed upcountry from Bujumbura to the hospital where he was being treated, that on his death the government announced “mourning” restrictions that were similar to those used to combat Covid-19, and that his wife previously had been rushed to Kenya to be treated for Covid-19 are all indications that he died from the virus only two days after becoming sick. What is ironic about his death is that he believed that Burundi as a Christian country would be blessed and spared from Covid-19. As a result except closing of Burundi’s borders no restrictions were imposed on the country’s population nor any preventive measures adopted. It is unclear now how prevalent the virus is in Burundi.  

The Burundian government only reports Covid-19 cases in an erratic manner, completely different from the daily reporting of Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda. As of Thursday, July 9, Burundi has reported 191 cases with one death (not the former president). But it has also reported that it has conducted only 749 tests. Not only is this an extremely small number, but the positive rate of 25.5 per cent is quite high. For comparison Kenya has conducted 200,311 tests with a positive rate of 4.5 per cent.

The newly elected president, Evariste Ndayishimiye, was sworn in on June 18 and the funeral of the late president, Pierre Nkuranziza was held on June 26. Then on June 30, in his first major presidential address, Ndayishimiye announced, “I declare the Covid-19 pandemic the biggest enemy of Burundians because it is clear it is becoming their biggest concern.” He then noted that all testing and treatment was free and encouraged people to be tested. The problem is that since Burundi was not responding to the dangers of the virus, there is only one testing center and less than ten technicians who can process the tests. On Tuesday, Burundi began major mass testing for the virus in Bujumbura. All I can say is “Better late than never.”

On Wednesday, July 15, GlobalGiving will be conducting a bonus day for all donations between $100 and $1000. The Friends Women’s Association will be holding a fundraiser on that day. Their goal is to raise $4000 so that they can conduct 100 Covid-19 awareness seminars for 2000 of the members of their self-help groups and HIV+ support groups. I hope you can help out. Early Wednesday morning I’ll be sending out an email on the details of this fundraiser.

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Update on the Covid-19 pandemic in Kenya:

And then I got mad.

I got terribly mad.

I yelled at the Lorax, “Now listen here, Dad!”

All you do is yap-yap and say, ‘Bad! Bad! Bad! Bad!’

Well, I have my rights, sir, and I’m telling you

I intend to on doing just what I do!

And, for your information, you Lorax, I’m figgering

on biggering

          and BIGGERING

                   and BIGGERING

                             and BIGGERING,

turning MORE Truffula Trees into Thneeds

which everyone, EVERYONE, EVERYONE needs!”

And at that very moment, we heard a loud whack!

From outside in the fields came a sickening smack [Covid-19]

of an axe on a tree. Then we heard the tree fall.

The very last Truffula tree of them all!

From The Lorax, By Dr. Seuss

Kenyan data as of July 9: 8,975 cases, 173 deaths, and 200,311 tests.

As you can see from the chart above, the number of Covid-19 cases is not flattening at all, but increasing. Note how the average number of cases per day has increased in the last weeks:

Week 9        22 cases per day

Week 10      50 cases per day

Week 11      73 cases per day

Week 12      85 cases per day

Week 13      125 cases per day

Week 14      149 cases per day

Week 15      154 cases per day

Week 16      222 cases per day

The major problem that accounts for these increases is the attitude expressed above, “Well, I have my rights, sir, and I’m telling you I intend to on doing just what I do!” From the pictures in the newspaper and on TV most people are not properly wearing masks, hand washing, or respecting social distancing. This includes politicians and some government officials. In my opinion, if the rules had been obeyed as they were in Taiwan, New Zealand, or South Korea, the pandemic would have been under control.

Fifty-one per cent of the cases are in Nairobi and another 22 per cent in Mombasa. This leaves only 27 per cent of the cases for the whole rest of the country. Kakamega County where we live, for example, with a population of around half a million has had only five confirmed cases. To keep the disease from spreading from Nairobi and Mombasa, four months ago, the government blocked all travel except essential services from leaving or entering these two cities. Although there has been a certain amount of leakage as people bribed the police to leave the cities, on the whole this has helped to keep the virus from spreading to the countryside. Note that it is in the countryside where the majority of the elderly people live and the areas least provided with the resources needed to respond to those who are sick.

I have seen various estimates that the Kenyan economy has slowed from the expected 6 per cent increase this year to a 2.5 per cent increase to a low of a 5 per cent contraction. There is no doubt that people who have been laid off from work, particularly in the cities, are having great difficulties in surviving. Fortunately here in the countryside this year’s harvest will be well above average. Buses who were no longer able to carry passengers to Nairobi and Mombasa have taken their seats out and are carrying food packages to those people in difficulty in the cities from their relatives in the countryside.

President Uhuru Kenyatta, like all leaders during the pandemic, has been between a rock and a hard place. Should he partly reopen the country to allow businesses to reopen or keep the restriction in place to protect people from being exposed to the virus?

Then on Monday, July 6, after four months, President Kenyatta partially reopened the economy including ending the restrictions on travel in and out of Nairobi and Mombasa. This brought great jubilation to many people in Kenya including the young men at the Lumakanda bakery where I bought some scones. Immediately all transport out of Nairobi was fully booked as Nairobians fled the virus infected city for the relatively low incidents of the virus in the countryside. Others including health officials warned that this will bring a major spike in cases in the rural areas unprepared to handle the increased case load. I predict that the number of Covid-19 cases is going to skyrocket in the next three weeks. Restrictions will then have to be reintroduced, but by that time the damage will have been done.

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David Zarembka

Phone 254 (0)726 590 783
Reports from Kenya: www.davidzarembka.com/

Email: davidzarembka@gmail.com

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