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Updated Jul 3, 2020
Burundi's new prime minister Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni attends the national funeral of late Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza, who died at the age of 55, at the Ingoma stadium in Gitega, Burundi, on June 26, 2020.  TCHANDROU NITANGA / AFP
Burundian prime minister Alain-Guillaume Bunyoni attends the state funeral of Burundi’s late president Pierre Nkurunziza at Ingoma Stadium in Gitega on June 26, 2020. (Tchangrou Nitanga/AFP)

Burundi’s swearing-in ceremony on June 30 for new ministers of the National Assembly was accompanied by a statement from newly elected President Évariste Ndayishimiye pledging renewed efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the small East African nation. Among the new policies is a 50 percent reduction in the price of soap and reduced rates for drinking water in Burundi’s urban areas.

This is a marked change from his predecessor, Pierre Nkurunziza, who was much more blasé about the threat of the virus to Burundi. Whereas other African countries were in some form of lockdown, Burundi kept restaurants, bars, and sports events open to the public, and top officials defended Nkurunziza’s lax attitude as a sign of his evangelical faith and belief in God’s protection.

 

They suspect the former president succumbed to COVID-19

 

Officially, Burundi has 170 confirmed cases, 115 recoveries, and one death, but they are likely undercounted. Nkurunziza’s death at the beginning of July was declared to be the result of cardiac arrest, but opposition leaders and foreign observers suspect the former president succumbed to COVID-19. There is concern that several members of Burundi’s political leadership may have been exposed to and are currently infected with the virus.

 

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