Sunday, June 23, 2024

DRC to shut down Kasumbalesa as Covid-19 hits border town

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The Democratic Republic of Congo imposed a 24-hour lockdown on the mining hub of Lubumbashi on Tuesday and was set to shut down Kasumbalesa, a border town on a copper export route, as authorities traced the contacts of a COVID-19 patient.

Jacques Kyabula Katwe, governor of the mineral-rich Haut-Katanga province, announced the area’s first COVID-19 case on Saturday – a 58-year-old Congolese person who had entered through Kasumbalesa.

Kasumbalesa is the main exit point for exports of copper and cobalt from Congo.

Kyabula Katwe told Reuters the successive lockdowns would not impact mineral exports.

“We will keep the export of minerals open in order to avoid problems,” Kyabula Katwe said in a phone interview.

A message from the Katanga head of Congo’s customs authority seen by Reuters said the Kasumbalesa border would remain open and a “minimum service” will be organised on April 28 in Lubumbashi and April 29 in Kasumbalesa.

“The heads of the offices and the heads of the provincial services are invited to ask the executives and agents under their authority to be at their work stations,” Bernard Bosele Pilipili said in the note to customs officials and users.

Logistics company officials fretted that the lockdown would nevertheless cause delays and a backlog of trucks at Kasumbalesa.

“We will only be able to tell tomorrow as one never knows how this will be interpreted on the ground,” said a logistics consultant in South Africa.

Increased checks over COVID-19 last month caused a 35 km (20 mile) long queue of trucks south of the border, and quadrupled the amount of time it took a truck to cross.

“Fortunately now there is a slowdown in volume so it won’t create the same degree of backlog we saw at the end of March,” said a logistics company official in Zambia.

DRC is the world’s top producer of cobalt and Africa’s biggest producer of copper.

Congo’s mines minister has warned mine closures due to COVID-19 would cause an economic and social crisis.

Meanwhile, a senior First Quantum executive says Zambia is unlikely to impose Covid-19 restrictions on mining.

First Quantum Chief Financial Officer Hannes Meyer says Zambia is highly unlikely to impose restrictions on the mining sector during the Covid-19 pandemic because current practices are working very well.

Mr Meyer said Zambia’s population demographics have also aided the limited spread of the virus in the copper-rich country.

“I don’t think for one minute that we will find ourselves in a situation in Zambia where the government will impose the closure of mining facilities. They have clearly provided support, they are actively encouraging the mines to continue, whilst observing various hygiene and other practices.”

6 COMMENTS

  1. As long as exit point is through Zambia, just know that Zambia is affected and infected. Vigorous screening and testing is required at kasumbalesa too. Minister of health must act swiftly for else you will be fighting the Corona virus in vain.

  2. Whatever you do with the mining activities, for health reasons, don’t keep the drivers and their crews at boarders for too long.

    Clear them and their cargo very quickly so as to have minimal personal presence. Don’t make villages of border crossings.

  3. Excellent decision. Life comes first. I have no qualms with this. It’s not indefinitely as once the situation returns to normal we can roll on. I am tired of my kids being at home. This lock down is killer. My kids are too active and keeping me on my toes. I am sure my kids can out run HH in the presidential race. Kz

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  4. When we tell people that Chilufya’s mass screening is a flaw and full of lies you say we are negative…if DRC is comtemplating closing the border then it must be very serious….Chilufya we now rush a team from Lusaka to go and close also.

  5. Economics can’t be stored due to the imported COVID 19 which is alien to our clean culture!! Please let’s continue with viable economic activities!!!

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