Africa

DR Congo extends state of emergency amid COVID-19

MPs need to put aside ethnic and tribal differences in face of coronavirus, speaker of Lower House of Parliament

James Tasamba   | 24.04.2020
DR Congo extends state of emergency amid COVID-19

KIGALI, Rwanda

Parliamentarians in the Democratic Republic of Congo voted Thursday to extend a state of emergency for 15 days to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.   

The measure was declared in March and was due to expire at midnight Friday. 

The authorities have recorded 359 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country and 25 deaths.  

In light of the pandemic, Parliament’s internal rules had to be amended to allow only 60 members in the plenary out of 500 to debate Thursday’s bill presented by the executive, said Jeanine Mabunda, speaker of the Lower House of Parliament. 

Explaining the rationale for the extension, Mabunda implored lawmakers to put aside their political, ethnic and tribal differences in the face of the “dangerous common enemy of humanity COVID-19 for the good of the Congolese.” 

The extension of the state of emergency was endorsed by the majority of lawmakers in the Lower House before being sent to the Senate, where it was eventually passed by most lawmakers. 

A few members of the Upper House of Parliament also met in respect of social distancing rules, including the chairpersons of parliamentary groups and members of standing committees. 

DR Congo announced its first COVID-19 case on March 10, and the disease has spread to at least four provinces. 

On March 24, President Felix Tshisekedi declared a state of emergency, announcing the closure of all borders to non-essential traffic and a ban on all trips between the capital and the country's 25 provinces. 

Kinshasa, with over 11 million residents, remains the epicenter of the pandemic. 

The city announced a lockdown on March 26 in a bid to contain the spread of the virus. But on Thursday, restrictions on essential services were eased in the capital. 

Tshisekedi on April 17 asked both chambers of Parliament to extend the state of emergency ahead of its expiry. 

He later signed an ordinance allowing both houses of Parliament to sit and consider the extension despite the measure prohibiting any gatherings of more than 20 people during the COVID-19 epidemic. 

The death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic on the African continent has reached 1,242 while confirmed cases hit 25,937 as of Thursday, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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