News jetting in from Burundi indicates that the country has ordered expulsion of the top World Health Organization (WHO) representative and three other experts coordinating the COVID-19 response to leave.

In a letter dated May 12 and addressed to WHO’s Africa headquarters, the foreign ministry said the four officials are declared persona non grata and as such, must leave the territory of Burundi by Friday.

The announcement comes just days before Burundians go to the polls on May, 20 to choose a new president, parliamentarians and local officials. The landlocked country of some 11 million has officially recorded 27 cases and one death from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

But it has taken few precautions against the disease and testing is low, fuelling concern that the true extent of the outbreak is not known. Rights groups say the government is pressing ahead with the vote no matter the cost, and accuses the ruling party and its youth wing of crushing dissent and threatening those taking their own measures against coronavirus. Officials in Burundi earlier cited God’s protection for the country’s ostensibly low infection rate and urged citizens to go about their daily lives without fear.

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