In break with predecessor, Burundi’s president vows to tackle coronavirus

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Burundi’s new president, Evariste Ndayishimiye, has promised steps to combat the spread of COVID-19, a shift from the stance of his late predecessor who dismissed the danger posed by the novel coronavirus.

Ndayishimiye, 52, a retired army general, won a presidential election in May as the ruling party’s candidate, defeating six opposition contenders. He had been due to take office in August, but the death of predecessor Pierre Nkurunziza last month brought the succession forward.

The government will soon post new guidelines, which the population will be required to comply with strictly, to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Ndayishimiye said on Tuesday.

“Everyone has to take measures to stop being infected or infecting others,” the president said.

Burundi has reported 170 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease that can be caused by the new coronavirus.

Under Nkurunziza, Burundi did not take the aggressive measures seen in many other countries to combat the coronavirus, held large political campaign rallies and even expelled the national lead of the World Health Organization.

The government will cut the price of soap by half and also reduce the cost of water, to help citizens wash their hands and curb the spread of the virus, Ndayishimiye said.

“We urge everyone who sees symptoms of the disease to rush for a test so he can get treatments,” the president said, adding that the government will carry out mass testing of people in areas suspected of being epicentres of the virus.