COVID-19: We Are Becoming Complacent – Health Minister Warns

Street mass testing in Kigali

The Minister of Health Dr Daniel Ngamije says that an assessment done by the ministry shows that people are increasingly loosening up in terms of adhering to measures against New Coronavirus, something he said could lead to a spike in numbers for a long time.

The Minister made the observations on Thursday while appearing on Rwanda Television following a cabinet meeting chaired by President Paul Kagame which decided to maintain existing measures in place and warned against illegal social gatherings.

Dr Ngamije said that the assessment showed that in parts of Kigali where the virus re-emerged, including the villages where the lockdown was reintroduced, it was found that residents had become reluctant in terms of observing the directives.

“We have been observing that the last two weeks saw an increase in the number of cases. Our assessment showed that the new cases are in the age group ranging from 20 to 49. We also discovered that this age group is not adhering to the measures as expected,”

“We found that majority don’t wear face masks and they take part in illegal gathering especially social gatherings in homes that are not permitted like parties and vigils yet they are not wearing masks or observing social distancing,” Dr Ngamije said.

Dr. Daniel Ngamije, Minister of Health

He pointed out that the findings further showed that people in different economic activities have become reluctant particularly traders in the Central Business District especially in the popular ‘Quartier Mateus” and “Quartier Commerciale” as well as markets.

“We have tested some porters in these places who turned out positive. We found that these people who carry merchandise from one place to another go about their work without wearing masks or sanitizing yet they touch many surfaces,”

“In doing so they transmit the virus from one place to another, from one person to another and it ends up in households and in banks and other places. It becomes a chain and difficult to control. This happens because someone failed to be responsible,” the Minister of Health said.

Asked whether this could signal reintroducing the lockdown, Dr. Ngamije says that the government’s intention would not be to put the country back in lockdown but when people fail to take responsibility and become complacent, they are sending a message to the government to take further action.

“If we all played our part, we wouldn’t be discussing the possibility of another lockdown. We want to see each one of us take responsibility because we don’t know what will happen next,”

“We have so far lost 5 people but we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. This virus keeps evolving and mutating, tomorrow it could be deadlier and you don’t want to be the one to succumb to it,” the Minister said.

“This virus is becoming more and more contagious. We don’t have to wait for more deaths to understand that the epidemic is still there and could affect us,” he added.

Economic impact

Dr. Ngamije says that failure to adhere to the measures also has economic consequences on the country because the more numbers increase, the more economic activities remain on hold.

A traffic police officer instructs a bus driver in Kigali

“How can we open schools when we are still registering more than 40 cases a day? Not possible. These are some of the consequences we will continue to face if we don’t adhere to the measures,” he said.

“I don’t think a parent would be happy to keep children at home longer due to the virus but it is the same parent who hosted a social gathering. That is the challenge we face,” he said.

In a recent appearance in Parliament, the Prime Minister Dr Edouard Ngirente said that September was a tentative period for schools to reopen but it will depend on the status of COVID-19 in the country.

Members of Parliament expressed concerns that the reopening of schools could be catastrophic due to social distancing challenges in schools resulting from shortage of classes.

The PM said that there is hope that at least 22, 500 classrooms will have been built by the time schools reopen, which will minimise overcrowding in schools.




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