The first batch of people who tested positive of the new Coronavirus were released from hospital on Sunday afternoon, sending a message of hope in the country’s fight against the COVID-19 outbreak.
The four, all men, include 3 Rwandans and a Burundian were discharged from Kanyinya Health Centre, Shyorongi where patients are being treated. They were handed certificates of clearance before being driven home. The discharge of the 4 has reduced active cases in Rwanda to 98. Rwanda has so far registered 102 cases of COVID-19.
The Minister of Health Dr. Daniel Ngamije said that because of their right to privacy, their names could not be revealed but the discharge process involves testing for the virus at least 3 times –the last two after 14 days of isolation and treatment. When the last two tests turn out negative, the patients are confirmed to have healed.
“We had 102 cases of COVID-19 as of yesterday (Saturday) but this morning things changed as we are now counting in our services 98 patients after we discharged 4 of them this morning,”
“This is good news for us because we were able to treat these people for more than 14 days and then we went through the process of discharging them as per our protocol. The protocol says we need to conduct two more tests after 14 days and those two tests should be negative.
“We did the first test on Wednesday and we repeated the test on Saturday. Both tests were negative and then as per the protocol, the patient should be released, which we did today. We are happy to say that this is an outcome of having these people admitted on time,” Dr Ngamije said.
The Minister of Health said that testing people as soon as they showed signs rather than waiting for them to get worse saved the situation, adding that discharging the first batch of patients should not be interpreted as though COVID-19 is a minor sickness.
“This is a serious disease. The immune system of a person reacts differently from one person to another,” Dr Ngamije said, adding that treatment of each person depends on the profiling of their immune system, with some proving to fight off the virus while others struggle depending on their system.
Regarding the discharge process, Minister Ngamije said the process involves conducting a series of tests.
“For any patient, after 14 days we conduct the first test, if the test is negative, we conduct the second one. If the first test is positive, we are requested to wait, depending on the viral load that we are seeing until we conduct the second test and then the third one,”
“At the end, we need to have two consecutive tests which are negative. We are still in that process for other patients but we believe it will not take long. The patients are ok, they are fine. I believe at the end of this week, more tests will be conducted.”
Regarding treatment, Dr Ngamije said Rwanda at the moment treats symptoms of the patients but there is no viral treatment approved by World Health Organisation (WHO) at the moment.
He however revealed that Rwanda is in the process of being registered in the protocol of a multi-centric trial of two drugs, Hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, which scientists believe can fight the coronavirus and have been pre-qualified by WHO.
“We treat symptoms as they appear for any patient but as I said, we are in the process of being registered in a multi-centric clinical trial which will allow us to treat using Hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as soon as we get ready with the protocol and the rest of the requirements,” he said.
Dr Ngamije says this combination of treatment is likely to start mid next week, starting with patients who have exhibited other complications or infections.
He however said the process to identify and treat is continuing, urging people to report suspected cases of people who exhibit COVID-19 related symptoms, adding that communities should welcome back and reintegrate the discharged patients.
He assured people that the discharged patients no longer have the virus in their bodies and can also help create awareness but added they were urged to rest for another 10 to 15 days as they transition from being isolated to getting back in their societies.
He also explained that it also doesn’t mean that they can’t be re-infected, hence they need to take precautions.
It also serves to note that the first case registered is not among the discharged group. The Minister of Health explained that each case is followed up individually until there are no signs of the virus remaining in their bodies. He, however, explained that the Indian national and his first contacts are likely to be released next week
Meanwhile, the Minister of Local Government Prof. Anastase Shyaka, who was part of the briefing urged people to continue observing the measures put in place by the government to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Prof Shyaka clarified on the circulating videos, regarding the distribution of relief support from government to vulnerable families, showing people displaying meagre portions, pointing out that indeed in some villages, local leaders mismanaged the distribution exercise.
He however said that 98 percent of the exercise went well will people receiving enough portions of basic supplies to sustain them for three days before another round is distributed. He said in some cases local leaders were arrested or cautioned and the government is working to streamline the process.
“Definitely the process didn’t go 100 percent well but we are working to correct the 2 percent where things didn’t go well but one or two angry people whose videos are making rounds do not mean that the distribution process didn’t go well,”
“We are working to ensure that we do this very well but people ought to understand that this is relief support. The government cannot provide everything you need but rather what you need to see you through this period,” Prof. Shyaka said, calling for calm as the government and private sector join forces to sustain vulnerable households during the COVID-19 lockdown.