Burundi infections steadily rose in the first half of September while the government has reduced coronavirus costs up to 85% for foreigners – and the surge was subjected to concerns over vaccination as Burundi remains checked to it.
The Government of Burundi has been shaking back-forth to curb the spread of covid-19 infections since March 2021 to whoever breaching DOs and DON’Ts that were settled by authorities. However, it revised the prices imposed on coronavirus tests for in-and-out of the country movements.
In a statement issued on the 17th of September, Domitien Ndihokubwayo, minister of finances said that the fee decrease aims at facilitating movements of people, goods, and services at respective terrestrial and water borders.
“At the entrance, visitors will have a mandatory covid-19 test which is going to cost BIF 15,000 for Burundians and $15 for foreigners,” reads the statement.
The test fee decreased from $100 to $15, thus 85% lower for foreigners entering Burundi while nationals who travel will pay only a quarter (decreased to 15%) of the previous fee which amounted to BIF 60,000.
The announcement dropped earlier came as a relief to trans-border small-scaled businessmen who operated under low affordable means of transport including by foot (for women), bicycles, motorcycles on land and boats on Lake Tanganyika.
“The current compulsory testing fee at the border is deemed unaffordable by some traders,” said Christian Nibasumba, Trade Mark East Africa (TMEA) Country representative in an email interview.
He added that in a study conducted by TMEA, they found out that export of important commodities coming from neighbouring countries, mainly the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) decreased greatly.
According to a TMEA study, regional trade dropped by 25% in the first quarter of 2020.
Not only land exchanges were impacted but also air. Mr. Nibasumba reported that air freight charges levelled up reaching 200%.
Senior authorities stepped up with stringent measures to halt the pandemic but infections continued to rise in the first two weeks of September 2021.
Health authorities associated the rise with people who refrain or deliberately do not observe covid-19 measures. Also, people after testing positive breach quarantine period and do not isolate themselves.
According to them, some people opt for self-medication instead of going to hospital facilities.
During the first week, overall infections exceeded 4000 while it navigated around 3500 infections. Weekly report showed that 374 people were discharged from hospital. Nationally, over 16,000 cases have been confirmed while Burundi records 12 fatalities.
The largest regions are Bujumbura municipality, Gitega, and Muyinga respectively representing masses of population and their proximity to borders as well.
In the meantime, according to health senior authorities, the infection rate average remains at 5% nationwide despite being at 6% in Bujumbura municipality.
The mayor of Bujumbura Jimmy Hatungimana accordingly ruled out new measures to prevent the infection rate surge in the second week of September. For him, people have been observing little social distancing and sanitizing.
“Anyone who will be caught breaching covid-19 measures will be fined BIF 100,000 (around $50),” said Hatungimana in a press conference.
He added that in mass gatherings people are obliged to wear mouth masks. Whoever shall be caught without a mask must pay the fine.
In public transport, masks are mandatory as well as hand-washing before entering the bus. It is applied to churches, public places such as markets and ceremonies including burial and marriage masses.
The spike of infections coincides with the proposal of the World Bank to deliver vaccines to the Burundi government. In July, the latter announced via the Ministry of public health that Burundi is open to covid-19 vaccine but will not bear any associated consequence.
In addition, the government refused to sign a contract regarding the vaccine shipment to Burundi.
However, the World Bank still holds on its willingness to assist Burundians with the coronavirus vaccine.
In a correspondence to the Ministry of public finance, the representative of World Bank in Burundi Veronique Kabongo said that the entity is ready to provide additional funds to combat the pandemic.
“The World Bank intends to extend the additional funding sought to integrate and/or broaden the efforts of mitigation against covid-19 in the framework of the procurement of vaccines, and its shipment in regards to African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) along with the l’Association Internationale de Développement (IDA) grant conditions,” said Kabongo.
In addition, she said, the World Bank stands by to assist the government with any technical assistance that will speed up the supply and roll-out of these vaccines.
In the region, Burundi remains the only country that has been reluctant to covid-19 vaccine whereas other member states vaccinated their respective populations.
As of today, only two African countries have not yet given a green light to immunization campaigns in their respective countries including Burundi and Eritrea.
Reported by Espoir Iradukunda, edited and approved for publication by Cédrick Irakoze