Pay protest: Congolese health workers tone down response

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Health workers responding to the coronavirus outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo’s capital have cut their services to a minimum in protest against unpaid bonuses, they said on Tuesday.

In a letter to the prime minister, an association of health workers demanded four months of bonuses, increased pay and government support for family members of colleagues who died from COVID-19.

The partial strike, which began on Friday, is taking place in the capital Kinshasa, where the vast majority of Congo’s 7,660 confirmed cases have been recorded, and two neighbouring provinces.

“The whole operation is on strike, and there’s just minimum service,” said Dr. Cris Kacita Osako, a spokesman for the strikers.

He said that meant there were reduced teams of doctors and nurses operating in hospitals and contact tracers in communities to follow up on positive cases.

Congo’s health minister did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On Monday, he told a radio station that payments had been delayed because the list of workers owed compensation appeared to have been inflated.

Health officials have offered contradictory information in recent weeks about how much money the government has disbursed in its coronavirus response and where it has gone, drawing scrutiny from some members of parliament.

On Sunday, the technical committee in charge of the response said the protests had disrupted its work, but did not give details.

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