Congo celebrates dark Easter by fighting COVID-19 and Ebola

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BENI, CONGO –
The Congo marked the Easter holiday by preparing to fight both COVID-19 and a continuing Ebola outbreak, after a second death from the disease was announced on Sunday in eastern Congo.

Across Africa, Easter was celebrated at home, with many Christians following television and radio services following movement bans and rallies to fight the new coronavirus.

Confirmation of a second Ebola death in Beni after the announcement of the first Friday was a strong warning to residents that they must continue to protect themselves from the disease and take new precautions against COVID-19.

Beni, a city of around 600,000 in eastern Congo, was at the center of the Ebola epidemic that started in August 2018 and has become the second largest in history, killing so far more than 2260 people.

There were high hopes that the Ebola outbreak could be officially declared over after more than 40 days with no new cases, but then the new deaths were announced.

Health workers are tracing the contacts of the two people who died from Ebola to try to prevent the spread of the disease. 215 contacts have already been identified, 53 of whom are health professionals, said Boubacar Diallo, surveillance coordinator for the World Health Organization.

Because church rallies have been banned, Beni resident Jeannot Sikivahwa said he had listened to a preacher on the radio.

“He told us about the resurrection of Jesus Christ but he also talked about Ebola and the coronavirus. He said we have to protect ourselves from these two epidemics plaguing us here in Beni, “Sikivahwa told the Associated Press. “This is the first time I have spent this vacation in such confinement. “

Aid organizations operating in the region said a series of attacks by rebel groups were also responsible for a shy celebration in Beni.

“I prayed that God would give us peace, health and keep us away from these two plagues that ravage thousands of people around the world,” said Sikivahwa.

Throughout Africa, Easter services were held in nearly empty churches. In Lagos, Nigeria, a Catholic Mass was held in the Holy Cross Cathedral and broadcast for viewing by people at home. In Nairobi, Kenya, a Catholic mass was held in the capital’s cathedral and residents were able to broadcast on social media or national broadcast networks.

On Sunday, 52 of the 54 African countries reported the presence of COVID-19, including 744 deaths for 13,686 cases.

Unlike Ebola, which kills about half of the people it infects, the new coronavirus mainly causes mild or moderate symptoms in about 80% of people. Spreading Ebola usually requires an exchange of bodily fluids, and people have often been infected when caring for loved ones or crying during traditional funerals involving close contact with the body. The new coronavirus, on the other hand, is much more contagious and is spread mainly by people who cough or sneeze, including those who have only mild flu-like symptoms.

This means that the task of controlling the spread of the virus in the Congo will be enormous: the government has only limited control in parts of the vast country, there are also dense population centers with poor sanitation and infrastructure. , and the east of the country, rich in minerals, is beset by the violence of various armed groups.

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