The President of Burundi has died of a sudden heart attack after falling ill on Saturday night before being taken to a hospital.
Outgoing president Pierre Nkurunziza, 55, is said to have improved on Sunday, but "surprisingly, on morning of Monday June 8, 2020, his health suddenly deteriorated and he had a heart attack," according to a government statement, which described the former footballer's death as "unexpected."
Seven days of mourning has been announced following the death, which is suspected to have been caused by COVID-19 - a rumor fueled by reports that his wife was flown to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi 10 days ago after contracting the disease, according to the Standard.
Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that Nkurunziza refused to impose pandemic restrictions on the impoverished African country, allowing political rallies and sporting events to proceed. Authorities have been accused of deliberately downplaying COVID-19, which has killed over 5,000 people on the African continent and infected nearly 200,000.
The nation of 11 million people has reported 83 cases of Covid-19 and officials have cited divine protection for Burundi’s ostensibly low infection rate and urged citizens to go about their daily lives without fear.
Nkurunziza’s spokesperson said that although the country may be hit by the pandemic, “Burundi … has signed a special covenant with God, whether you believe it or not”.
COVID-19 heart attacks
In February, the Taiwan Times reported that doctors in Hubei, China had smuggled out a report that coronavirus patients who had become reinfected were dying from sudden heart failure - providing a possible explanation for photographs and videos of people lying dead in the streets of Wuhan.
While rare, at least two similar videos have appeared in the United States:
And according to Johns Hopkins, COVID-19 targets the heart's ACE-2 enzymes.
"There are multiple mechanisms for heart damage in COVID-19, and not everyone is the same," according to cardiologist Erin Michos, M.D.