June 1 was the day province to province movement and ‘moto’ transport was expected to resume. All had been set for people to begin moving from one province to another since inter-province travel was stopped on March 14.
Moto taxi operators had sufficiently prepared to hit the roads with all the necessary precautions taken. Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA) had put in place all the necessary measures for the two-wheeled transporters to go back on the roads.
However, 26 minutes to June 1, there was a change of plan. The Office of the Prime Minister tweeted that the plans for the two awaited measures to take effect had been put on hold.
“After reassessment, transportation between provinces and the City of Kigali, as well as passenger moto services, will remain closed until further notice in the interest of public health. Further Covid-19 measures will be announced by Cabinet on Tuesday 2 June,” the PM’s Office announced.
President Paul Kagame is expected to chair the extraordinary cabinet meeting on Tuesday to come up with new measures to follow in the fight to contain the virus. However, the government has explained the reasons for the change of plan.
The Minister of Health Dr Daniel Ngamije said on Monday that New Coronavirus cases which were detected in the western province district of Rusizi prompted the government to put on hold plans to reopen further other sections of the economy that were bound to be resume.
“As we mentioned last week, we have been assessing different categories of people who had been testing positive of COVID-19. From this assessment, we found that there are still some cases of infections in these groups of people,”
“These include people who return into the country as we saw yesterday among the 11 cases recorded. Some come from neighbouring countries while others returned from far off countries. As a result, we detected some cases in Rusizi district which led to the decision to put on hold plans for motos to go back on the road and provincial travel,” Dr Ngamije said.
He said that further assessment will be done before the next decision is made but this was necessary to ensure that the situation is safe before people are allowed to travel again and for motos to transport passengers.
Dr Ngamije said that the five people who tested positive in Rusizi district are traders and truck drivers who transport goods as well as a motorcyclist who was delivering goods.
“These people are known, we have traced their contacts but we are still ascertaining whether they didn’t infect any person but before we could gather all the information, it was important to put on hold all movements of people to avoid a situation where more people are infected,” Dr Ngamije said on Radio Rwanda.
The Minister of Health said that apart from Rusizi, no other cases have been detected elsewhere in the country, except the known truck drivers who enter through designated entry points who are handled on arrival.
The new cases in Rusizi come few days after Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) had agreed on a plan to restore cross-border trade between the two countries while following all precaution measures.
On the first fatality Rwanda registered on Saturday, Dr Ngamije said that the individual, a former truck driver who was residing in a neighboring country was isolated on arrival before getting in contact with any people.
“We welcome him on the border and immediately transferred him to the treatment center, unfortunately, he could not make it,” he explained.
In other parts of the country, Dr Ngamije said other cases had been contained including in Gicumbi, Musanze and Huye districts where some cases were detected.
He said that had the new cases not been detected in Rusizi, there were no other cases in the community and the said services would have resumed. He urged the public to continue adhering to the measures until the situation gets much clear.
The Minister of Local Government Prof. Anastase Shyaka, also speaking on Radio Rwanda said that the government moved fast to stop the resumption of movements from one province to another to contain a possible second wave of cases in different parts of the country.
He said that when cases were detected in different districts including Gicumbi, the government acted quickly to contain them but the cooperation of the citizens proved to be vital.
“When we say that we must adhere to the measures, it is very important to avoid new infections. As we have seen the virus is still around but when we work together, report on time and take action, we contain it,”
“We want residents of Rusizi to understand what is at stake and avoid violating the measures, report what they know on time and avoid using shortcuts to move one place to another in violation of the measures,” Prof. Shyaka said.
Rwanda on Sunday confirmed 11 New COVID-19 cases which the Ministry of Health said were cases of traders and truck drivers who engage in cross border activities as well as returning citizens.
“The new cases comprise returning residents and cross border truck drivers and traders. Patients are in isolation, contacts traced,” reads the communique from the Ministry of Health.
Rwanda has so far registered 370 New Coronavirus cases and one death. The government says teams of experts will be deployed in cross-border towns to monitor the situation and keep the possible spread of the virus in check.