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Côte d’Ivoire: Legislative elections cause a spike in Covid-19 cases

By Ahmed Coulibaly

Though the figures are a far cry from the rates in Europe and North America, the number of Covid-19 infections and deaths in all sectors of society in Côte d’Ivoire has continued to increase since January 2021. The most high-profile case was one of the country’s most illustrious political figures, former Prime Minister Hamed Bakayoko, who died on March 10, 2021 of cancer, months after contracting Covid-19 for the second time.

One of the main factors in the rise of Covid-19 cases, according to experts, are the legislative elections that were held on March 6 throughout the country. There were 551 new cases counted on Wednesday, March 10, and a total of 2856 active cases. According to the General Directorate of Health, the daily rate of positivity is around seven percent, a worrying rate which could be explained by the non-respect of the preventive measures prescribed by the Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene.

During the campaign period for the legislative elections, rallies with no mask-wearing, hand-washing or social distancing were held throughout the country, said Honoré Kouamé, an activist residing in the commune of Yopougon.

“Unfortunately, we observed that the meeting organizers had not planned any sanitary measures to avoid cases of infection. People were crowded together and it was popular jubilation because people were dancing and singing the praises of their candidates without suspecting that the neighbor next door could infect them,” Kouamé explained.

Kouamé’s observations were typical for campaign rallies held by all the major political parties. In response to these allegations, some campaign managers defended themselves by saying they didn’t have the resources to implement any preventive measures. “We lacked the means to meet the expectations of all our supporters. Imagine if we had to pay for masks for more than 10,000 people. It would be difficult. That’s why we told our supporters to bring their own masks, but unfortunately, they do not respect the instructions,” said Patrick N’guessan, the campaign manager of a winning candidate.

The rising infections worry the Ivorian authorities, who fear a second wave of the pandemic in the country. The number of confirmed cases from February 11 to March 10, 2021 is estimated at 5,500, which is a very high rate of contamination, according to an agent of the General Direction of Health, who wished to remain anonymous. “The exponential number of confirmed cases per day is very worrying. We do samples every day, and unfortunately, of the 2856 active cases, 1127 people are under treatment and the care system is not sufficient to take good care of all these people,” they said.

Despite this outbreak of infected cases, the health authorities believe they have the situation under control. According to the statistics, the proportion of cured cases is 95 percent, the number of hospitalized people is four percent and the number of deaths remains at one percent.

One February 26, Côte d’Ivoire received 504,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine under the COVAX program.