COVID-19: How the Battle Shifted to Rusizi Axis

Gihundwe hospital was added on the list of COVID-19 centres

The whole of last week saw Rwanda’s efforts and logistics in the fight against New Coronavirus shifted to Rusizi town in the South Western part of Rwanda as the secondary city bordering Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) became the main source of COVID-19 cases.

On Monday, 12 new cases were recorded in the town which sits by the shores of Lake Kivu, overlooking Bukavu on the DRC side. A total of 1, 928 tests were done as the Ministry of Health embarked on a mass testing exercise to contain the virus in the town which is currently under lockdown and out of bounds.

The Director-General of Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, while appearing on a talk show on KT Radio said that focus now has been shifted to the previously bustling town whose growth over the years has been boosted by cross border trade, to identify what could have caused the spike in infections.

Both Rusizi and Rubavu remain off-limits despite public transport and travel reopening in the country last week. Residents of the districts are not allowed to leave their districts though Rubavu is not under lockdown.

“We are doing an assessment to see what could have caused the rise in the number of COVID-19 cases. At the moment we are preoccupied by the need to identify all positive cases and taking care of them,”

“This is why it was decided that restrictions are imposed on the sectors that make up Rusizi town, putting them under lockdown. The aim is to stop the spread,” Dr Nsanzimana said, indicating that Rusizi being strategically located close to two countries, Burundi and DRC, and linked to Bukavu city, which is inhabited by over 4 million, could be the reason it is exposed.

“We are trying to see if there is a connection between the location of the town and whether the growing number of cases has something to do with cross border movements and trade,” Dr Nsanzimana said.

Cases is DRC have been increasing on a daily basis, now at 4,106 with 90 cases registered on Monday while 88 people have so far died in the vast mineral-rich country.

Dr Nsanzimana said that majority of front-line workers and experts have moved to Rusizi town to try and contain the numbers by conducting mass testing, tracing, and isolating all suspected cases.

The Ministry of Health says the new cases registered on Monday are related to the Rusizi cluster and have been isolated while contacts traced.

The Governor of Western Province Alphonse Munyantwali said that people in the two towns are continuing to observe measures with the hope that the situation will go back to normal and people go back to their normal lives, adding that there are efforts to ensure that trade is not disrupted.

“We want people to act responsibly and know that anybody can contract New Coronavirus but how we conduct ourselves determines where we are safe or exposed. Not all the people who tested positive crossed the border,”

“There are those who got it from others who had probably got in contact with those who crossed the border which is why these measures were imposed to ensure that the spread is contained,” Munyantwali said.

The two districts of Rubavu are known to have porous borders with DRC and shortcuts commonly known as ‘panya routes’ which people use to sneak in and out of the country.

Currently, total cases in Rwanda now stand at 451. The positive cases in Rusizi were out of 1, 928 tests. 7 recoveries were registered on Monday, putting total recoveries at 297 while active cases are now 152. Rwanda has so far conducted 78, 259 tests since the outbreak on March 14.




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