Message from Dr. Denis Mukwege on the Coronavirus Pandemic

March 25, 2020

Bukavu, DRC — Message from Dr. Denis Mukwege on the Coronavirus Pandemic

The whole world is facing the Coronavirus pandemic that is now spreading in Africa, after having struck Asia and Europe. The latest figures from Europe are appalling. Several other countries in the world, such as the United States and Canada, are also affected.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), our country, is not spared. Already, 32 positive cases have been reported. We must prepare for the worst in order to avoid a massive spread of the virus and a multiplication of cases.

In the absence of test centers throughout our country and of means to conduct large-scale screening of the population, as encouraged by the World Health Organization, we have no idea of the actual extent of people infected. To date, it is therefore very difficult to detect who among us or among those around us is already infected.

It is important to note that this virus is very contagious even if the symptoms of the disease – fever, dry cough, difficulty breathing – have not yet appeared.

Our best way to stop the spread of the virus will therefore be prevention, citizen vigilance and collective mobilization. What matters most is the behavior of each individual and of us all.

We call on the entire national community to become fully involved in ensuring an effective response to the pandemic.

We welcome the preventive mechanisms decreed by the Head of State on March 19, banning gatherings, in particular in schools, churches, meeting halls, collective sporting events, and restricting access to the national territory.

We also welcome the appointment of our compatriot and my colleague, the eminent virologist Jean-Jacques Muyembe, co-discoverer of the Ebola virus in 1976, as coordinator of the Coronavirus response in the DRC.

Each of us must accept, for the duration of this crisis, to adapt our habits: avoid going out as much as possible and stay at home; adopt social distancing measures, such as keeping a minimum of one meter distance between individuals; avoid handshakes and hugs.

Familiar preventive hygiene measures, such as washing your hands regularly with soap and sneezing into your elbow, are also highly recommended.

For any emergency or potential case, contact the nearest hospital and follow the instructions of the health authorities of our country.

At Panzi General Hospital, all our staff are prepared and mobilized for the response. We will take care of the sick with efficiency and humanity.

Dear fellow citizens, women and men, political decision-makers, religious leaders, traditional leaders, leaders of civil society and social movements, health professionals, we call on you to relay prevention messages. Let us join forces to stem this pandemic in a spirit of responsibility and solidarity with the international community.

Today and tomorrow, at Panzi hospital, we will be at the disposal of our population to make our contribution to this fight.

Thank you.

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