Africa, Latest on coronavirus outbreak

Rights group warns Burundi on COVID-19 cover up

Human Rights Watch doubts claims that East African nation is virus-free

31.03.2020
Rights group warns Burundi on COVID-19 cover up

ANKARA

Human Rights Watch on Tuesday criticized the Burundian government’s performance in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, accusing it of having a “denial and deflection approach to crisis management”.

“[..] Burundi’s usual denial and deflection approach to crisis management, ignores painful lessons learned elsewhere about the outbreak,” Lewis Mudge, the watchdog’s Central Africa director was quoted as saying in a statement.

“The Burundian authorities should be transparent and work with international partners to enable the prompt and unrestricted delivery of aid and protect those most vulnerable, should the virus spread,” he added.

The rights groups also expressed doubts that Burundi was coronavirus-free so far.

“On March 27, a hospital in Bujumbura, the country’s economic capital, alerted the government to three strongly suspected cases, who later reportedly tested negative. Several sources in the medical and humanitarian field have expressed concerns to Human Rights Watch that the authorities are not conducting enough tests to understand the extent to which the disease may be spreading,” said the statement.

Giving earlier examples of dealing with epidemics in the central African country, the HRW said: “In 2019, the authorities failed to declare a malaria epidemic despite recording 8.5 million cases – out of a population of over 11.5 million – and more than 3,000 deaths, which undermined the response to the disease”.

The rights group also referred to the Burundian presidential spokesperson’s remarks that, “campaigning for the next general elections, scheduled to begin in May, would not be affected by the virus”.

After first appearing in Wuhan, China, in December, the virus, officially known as COVID-19, has spread to at least 178 countries and regions, indicates the Johns Hopkins University database.

The data shows the confirmed number of cases worldwide has surpassed 809,000, with the death toll over 39,000, and more than 172,000 recoveries.

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