Nobel winner Denis Mukwege quits provincial DR Congo COVID-19 task force

FILE PHOTO: Nobel-prize nominated Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege speaks at a news conference at the EU Parliament in Brussels November 14, 2012. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Nobel Prize winner and Congolese gynaecologist Denis Mukwege. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

The head of a coronavirus task force in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s South Kivu Province, Denis Mukwege, resigned from his position citing organisational problems and slow strategy and testing.

Mukwege, a Nobel Peace Prize in 2018 for his work against sexual violence in war, had been appointed to the position on March 30.

In a statement, Mukwege said that it was no longer feasible apply a strategy that would be purely preventive given that the nation was at a point where the curve in infections would be exponential.

Mukewge described what he termed as a “weaknesses in organisation and clarity between the various teams in charge of the response to the pandemic in South Kivu.”

“I have decided to resign… in order to devote myself entirely to my medical duties and to treat the influx of patients at Panzi hospital.”

Mukwege expressed his frustration at the fact that it took more than two weeks to get COVID-19 test results from the national reference lab in Kinshasa. This he argued was a major disadvantage for their strategy based on testing, identifying, isolating and treating patients.

Mukwege, a gynecologist, also spoke of events that “reduced the effectiveness” of the fight against COVID-19.

Some of them included laxity in alertness by the public, challenges in enforcing social distancing and the return of thousands of people from neighbouring countries without mandatory quarantine.

Mukwege had proposed a number of strict measures to contain the spread of the virus. They included partial confinement of people over the age of 60 and compulsory mask-wearing. He also requested for emergency supplies of tests before an anticipated sharp increase in COVID-19 cases.

The DR Congo has so far reported at least 4,390 confirmed infections and 96 deaths from the disease.