Government increases testing capacity
First case: 31 March 2020
Total cases: 431 (as of 27 August 2020)
Total deaths: 1
Schools: Open (except for the French and Belgian schools)
Flights/Borders: All international passenger flights and visa issuance suspended on 22 March, except for cargo, humanitarian aid, diplomatic community and ambulance flights. WFP Humanitarian Air Service is authorized and organizing inbound and outbound passengers flights for humanitarians and related services. The land borders, temporarily closed with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda, have been reopened on 15 April to allow the movement of goods and commodities. The border with Tanzania has remained open for the movement of goods and for the return of Burundians in their country.
Containment measures: Since July, travellers arriving in Burundi are allowed to forgo any quarantine if they can provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test less than 72 hours. Those without proof are required to undergo a self-financed 14-day quarantine. Burundian refugees returning from Tanzania within the voluntary repatriation programme are exempt from this quarantine measure, except for those displaying COVID-19 symptoms.
In Burundi, 431 people had contracted COVID-19 , including one person who died from disease, as of 27 August. The virus has spread throughout the border provinces and the capital Gitega in the centre of the country, however Bujumbura Mairie province retains the highest number of cases. On 6 July, the new Government rolled out a three-month mass testing campaign in the provinces of Bujumbura Mairie & Rural, Ruyigi and Gitega. The campaign, spearheaded by the country’s newly elected President, is called "I heal, do not contaminate myself and do not contaminate others". Three screening sites have been set up throughout the capital, Bujumbura city. As of 10 August, the country had conducted 17,306 tests. The Minister of Public Health and the Fight Against AIDS has requested that people wear masks, particularly in places where they gather.
According to Ministry of Public Health reports, at least 32 health-care professionals have tested positive. Meanwhile, unoﬃcial reports continue to indicate an increase in admissions of patients to hospitals with symptoms similar to those of COVID-19, as well as multiple deaths due to respiratory failure. There are reports that many people who have been conﬁned (without proof of a negative test) in hotels, motels, or other Government designated buildings do not have the ﬁnancial capacity to complete their 14-day quarantine. In addition, the lack of triage and isolation facilities, the inadequate logistical and operational capacity of rapid response teams and other frontline health workers, as well as the shortage of safe water, sanitation and hygiene equipment throughout the country constrains the response effort. A decrease has been noted in the use of reproductive health, maternal and neonatal services. UNHCR has resumed voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees–a task that has been greatly encouraged by the Governments of Burundi and Tanzania.
Heavy rains and flooding between April and May caused destruction of key infrastructure and affected around 50,000 people across the country, most of whom are displaced, increasing the risk of COVID-19 transmissions in temporary camps. In Bujumbura Rural Province alone, a hospital, three health facilities and a COVID-19 isolation centre were flooded, disrupting key health services. Meanwhile, the Government and partners have been working to increase training of health personnel in the detection, diagnosis, and surveillance of respiratory diseases, as well as hygiene awareness among the population. This is especially important to protect the most vulnerable groups in the country, including internally displaced people, returnees, host communities and over 1.7 million severely food-insecure people.
Separately, on 14 May the UN Commission of Inquiry on Burundi called on the Government to act with transparency and comply with the international standards of human rights and humanitarian assistance during the response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The statement came after the Foreign Ministry declared on 13 May the country's WHO representative in Burundi and three health experts working in the UN emergencies team "persona non grata" and as such, ordered the four members to leave the territory of Burundi over an alleged disagreement on the management of the pandemic.
In parallel to the Strategic Response Plan developed by the WHO and partners, a contingency plan has been prepared by the Government, requesting US$58.2 million. To date, over $15 million has been pledged or made available for the COVID-19 response efforts. Some partners are also in the process of reprogramming and reallocating the Ebola funding towards the COVID-19 response.
The National Steering Committee for Public Health Emergency Management, chaired by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Health and the Fight Against AIDS, has been reactivated, together with pillar-based technical working groups.
Health authorities are screening travellers and have supplied laboratories with COVID-19 testing kits, however both require enhancements.
A campaign has been launched to tell people about the COVID-19 preventive measures and a hotline is answering questions from the public. The service is however overwhelmed, and a call centre with greater capacity is needed.
To learn more about the COVID-19 situation in Burundi and its humanitarian impact, check out the OCHA Burundi Situation Report, available in English and French.
Humanitarian partners continue to strengthen the Ministry of Health's capacity to combat COVID-19 by providing training for laboratory technicians, donating medical equipment, facilitating the transport of medical equipment and providing computers that can be used for the surveillance system. Current priorities include advocating for greater government involvement in coordination, better information sharing, supporting the mass screening campaign, and setting up the Public Health Emergency Operations Centre (PHOC).
UNDP has recently contributed by providing to the MSPLS with a grant consisting of 14 million masks, 3 VG70 respirators, 30 motorcycles, 6 (four-wheel drive) vehicles and various other computer equipment’s to assist with the country’s surveillance system. WHO is supporting the Government by providing national training in capacity building of laboratory technicians in the area of laboratory diagnostics and safe sample collection and transportation for the staff of the COVID-19 testing campaign. IOM and UNICEF are covering the day to day operational costs of the mass testing campaign underway (such as daily subsistence allowances of front-line health care workers) as well as provision of tests kits.