Government officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo have denied any manipulation of its figures for the coronavirus disease cases and deaths.
The controversy came as health officials announced DR Congo’s latest COVID-19 figures which stand at 63 deaths from 2,025 cases, most of them in the capital, Kinshasa. So far, 312 people have recovered.
The vast central African country, one of the world’s poorest, reported its first case on March 10.
Late on Friday, the government reported that a doctor and a hospital administrator had been arrested and later released over accusations of falsely declared coronavirus cases.
The arrests were made after “a controversy over a patient who died this month”, said a government news bulletin.
The country’s Council of Ministers met on Friday after President Felix Tshisekedi asked the health minister to investigate rumours of fake patient deaths linked to the virus.
“A negative media campaign is being waged against our country by some foreign media, with the aim of tarnishing its image in connection with the management of COVID-19,” the Council of Ministers said in the minutes of the meeting.
They also condemned attacks on coronavirus prevention and response teams in Kinshasa, urging the minister of justice “to act rigorously against the perpetrators of these acts”.
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Parliament, meanwhile, voted on Friday to extend the state of emergency order by 15 days for the third time.
A team of Chinese medical experts that arrived in Kinshasa earlier this month found no evidence that the number of virus cases or deaths were distorted, Jean-Jacques Muyembe, DR Congo’s coronavirus front man, told a news conference on Friday.
“Cases are less severe here than in Europe or the United States. We have a younger population that is more resistant to infection,” Muyembe said.
Zhu Jing, the Chinese ambassador to DR Congo, said the team of Chinese doctors did not find any “fake patients”.
“The hospitalised patients are indeed suffering from the pandemic,” he said.