Thousands of Congolese arrived in the southern region of Niari, bordering Gabon, on Sunday, March 29, doubling the population of the area as they fled Congo-Brazzaville’s largest urban centers to escape the COVID-19 pandemic. A day earlier, President Denis Sassou N’Guesso announced a curfew and stay-at-home order beginning on March 31 and lasting until April 30. To date, nineteen cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the country.
Why It Matters
The coronavirus pandemic has caused a rupture in the principle of free movement. Democratic governments are forced to balance the rights of the individual with that of the broader public health, a delicate gambit that must be carefully handled lest it lead to a further erosion of civil liberties during and after the crisis. The mass movement of Congolese out of the cities, panicked by news of the virus’s arrival, is a lesson for governments to plan better when announcing containment measures.