Rwandans embrace as a sign of kinship, and that you do not hold that person at a distance. Thanks to Coronavirus, all these gestures could mean death, rather than life.
As some researchers suggest that social distancing may have to be maintained well into 2022, will the pandemic change Rwandan culture permanently?
According to Acting Direcotr of Rwanda Academy of Language and Culture (RALCA), Jonathan Niyonsaba, while these gestures are steeped in Rwandan history and culture, it is up to Rwandans to change as the need arises.
“Normally a handshake or an embrace are a sign of affection, and confirmation that you mean what you say in the greeting.Culture is how people structure their lives. Allowing something new that is of benefit to the people strengthens, rather than destroying that culture”, he argues.
At the time the government plans to fully reopen the economy several researchers worldwide have proposed social distancing to continue being practiced up to 2022 to combat the COVID-19.
The research from Harvard school of public health in the United States of America says that prolonged social distancing even if intermittent, would likely have profound negative economic, social and educational consequences, but should be practiced at least until 2022.
“Intermittent distancing may be required into 2022 unless the critical care capacity is increased substantially, or treatment or vaccine becomes available,” the research says.
The research projects that COVID-19 would come back quickly once social distancing restrictions were lifted, or not obeyed.
According to the Wolrd Health Organisation(WHO), social distancing is one of the effective measures to stop the spreading of COVID-19.
“Since coronavirus is spread mainly through respiratory droplets, especially when people cough or sneeze, maintaining a safe distance is recommended to decrease transmission,” the statement on WHO website reads.
Though Rwandans obeyed social distancing for fear of their lives, some have not fully adopted by unexpectedly shaking or hugging while greeting.
“I sometimes forget and shake hands with people, this is what I have been doing since my childhood. It is a bit hard to remember every time. I just get scared of the virus afterward,”Gilbert Nsenga, a resident of Nyarutama, Gasabo district, Kigali city, said.
“It also looks so ugly and shameful when refusing a handshake with an elderly person or a friend, but with time we shall be adopting the new system, we all need a life.”
On Tuesday 12, 2020 Rwanda registered a total of 286 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic was confirmed in Rwanda on March 14 this year.
So far, the total recoveries are 153 compared to 133 active cases.