Nightclubs shut as DR Congo hit by third Covid wave

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Felix Tshisekedi (Picture: AFP)
Felix Tshisekedi (Picture: AFP)

Nightclubs in the DR Congo must close and funeral wakes will be banned for two weeks in the face of a third wave of Covid cases, President Felix Tshisekedi said on Tuesday.

Speaking in the eastern city of Goma, Tshisekedi said he hoped the measures will be effective, notably against the "highly contagious" Delta variant first detected in India.

The vast central African country of at least 80 million people has had fewer than 40,000 cases and a total of 854 deaths since March 2020.

But daily cases have risen with 250 new infections recorded on Tuesday including 218 in the capital Kinshasa.

Tshisekedi said a nighttime curfew from 10 pm to 5 am will remain in effect, "with military patrols, (and) violators will be severely punished."

READ | Covid-19: Biden decries 'sad milestone' as US' death toll hits 600 000: Johns Hopkins

Funeral wakes - a mainstay of Congolese social life - were also prohibited during the first wave of the pandemic in the former Belgian colony.

Tshisekedi also urged the Congolese to get vaccinated - the country has received 1.7 million doses of AstraZeneca and hopes to receive Pfizer, Russian and Chinese jabs.

The surge in Covid has forced the authorities to postpone a tribute to Patrice Lumumba, a revolutionary figure who helped steer the former Belgian Congo to independence.

The DRC's first post-colonial prime minister was executed by separatists in the region of Katanga who were backed by Belgian mercenaries.

A Belgian policeman admitted dissolving Lumumba's body in acid to get rid of the evidence of the crime, but said he had kept a tooth.

The relic was to be handed over in a ceremony in Brussels on June 21 and then displayed in several DRC towns before being buried.

The tribute will now take place on 8 to 17 January 2022, culminating on the 61st anniversary of his death, Tshisekedi said on Sunday.

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