Correction: The Minister of Health Dr Daniel Ngamije says that Rwanda taking early action to rein in the spread of New Coronavirus by tracing all cases and imposing tough measures on the movement of people saved the country from a possible catastrophe.
The Minister of Health made the remarks on Thursday while appearing on Rwanda Television with his Local Government counterpart Prof. Anastase Shyaka to expound more on the decision by an extraordinary virtual cabinet meeting chaired by President Paul Kagame, to extend the lockdown by another 15 days.
Dr Ngamije said that the tough measures including asking people to stay home in a nationwide lockdown and stopping all flights coming in and out of the country led to the containment of the virus, maintaining only imported cases and the very first contacts of people who were positive.
“I can say that the outcome of the measures we took has been a positive one. We only maintained imported cases and the first contacts of the people who had the virus. It means that by the time we took measures, the first contacts of confirmed cases had not infected third parties,” Dr Ngamije said.
“We also took measures to quarantine these two groups, taking them out of the society and putting them in isolation centres, meaning that they could not infect more people,” he explained.
Rwanda currently has registered 82 cases, 56 of which came from Dubai, UAE. Dr. Ngamije said that measures have been taken by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Rwanda’s Embassy in Dubai to test and treat Rwandans in Dubai.
Dr. Ngamije said that majority of Rwandans have since understood the importance of the measures and adhering to them, but some youth still think they can go out of their homes and go on the road to socialize, something he said exposes them to danger.
The Minister of Health said that the government took action pretty fast, meaning that the positive cases had only infected their very first contacts, who all had to be traced and isolated before they could infect more.
“We have been able to trace all the contacts, most of them had not moved far and wide in the country which really helped us to manage and contain the spread. These 15 days will give us time to assess the progress but so far we believe acting fast saved the situation,” he said.
Dr Ngamije said that all people who travelled in countries which are hotspots from March 5 onwards were all asked to voluntarily report themselves for testing in the four testing centres where those who were found to have signs were isolated. During the exercise, 800 people were tested.
“Those who did not turn themselves in for voluntary testing were traced with the help of Immigration and other organs, including those who had travelled upcountry. We were also able to trace the trail of their contacts and tested them,” the Minister of Health said.
He reiterated that the first group of patients who have fully recovered will be discharged by the end of the week.
On compliance, Prof. Shyaka reiterated that the additional 15 days were a result of an assessment which showed that the government needed to extend the lockdown to ensure that the pandemic is fully brought under control.
Despite majority of Rwandans adhering to the measures, Minister Shyaka said that there are still loopholes in observing the social and physical distancing measures especially in markets and shopping places which remain open.
“We are still seeing cases where people don’t observe the social distance rules, we want people to pay attention to this because it is very important,” Prof. Shyaka said, adding that there cases where bar owners and shop owners have defied the measures, still allowing people to gather in these places.
He said over the last 15 days, various business owners have been fined for flouting the measures while in some cases people have left their homes without any legitimate reason. He also pointed a finger at young people who still think they can find ways to socialize during the lockdown.
The Local Government Minister urged parents and guardians to sensitise their children to stay home because the myth that the New Coronavirus does not attack young people has been demystified.
“We want young people to understand that this disease attacks the young and old in equal measure. The youth have to stop the habit of moving around and stay home like everyone else. We don’t want a situation where a young person will be the one to infect the whole family,” he said.
Prof. Shyaka urged the population to remain calm and adhere to the measures until the pandemic is brought under full control. Rwanda has so far registered 82 cases with no fatalities. Dr. Ngamije said that so far no patient in Rwanda is in critical condition.