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More than 30 members of Congo’s parliament have died from Covid-19, says senior lawmaker

More than 30 members of Congo’s parliament have died from Covid-19, says senior lawmaker
Covid-19 has killed 32 lawmakers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the National Assembly’s vice president has said, though the whole country has to date registered just 31,000 confirmed cases.

The first vice-president of the National Assembly, Jean-Marc Kabund, revealed the shocking toll in a video sent to colleagues on Thursday, which was then posted online by his staff the following day. The figure is equivalent to around 5% of the country’s parliament.  

“The latest update announced by the government reports 31,248 confirmed cases and 780 deaths, among them 32 members of parliament,” Kabund noted.

Despite lawmakers being mandated to wear masks in the often-raucous chamber, few have done so. In December, parliamentarians and associates engaged in a brawl involving hand-to-hand combat, chair throwing and bucket tossing. Many wore their masks around their chins.

President Felix Tshisekedi drew criticism earlier in May when he joked to dinner guests that they were breaking the Covid-19 curfew. "Today, you have permission,” he stated. 

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Despite comparatively few confirmed Covid-19 cases and deaths in the DRC, concerns remain about the country’s desperately slow vaccine rollout. Since its inoculation program began on April 19, just 19,597 people nationally have received a shot.

While many Congolese fear the vaccine’s potential side effects, the country’s inoculation campaign has also stuttered due to a government decision to delay the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine amid concerns over very rare blood clots. As a result, 75% of the doses received in March were reallocated to ensure they were used elsewhere before expiring.

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