The Minister of Health Dr Daniel Ngamije said on Monday that Rwanda has so far spent at least $60m in the fight against the New Coronavirus, but pointed out that the country has lost much more than the money spent to combat the outbreak.
Dr Ngamije said that it is true that the virus has been costly for Rwanda in terms of what has been spent on the different activities to curb the spread but in general terms the country lost much more than that when the economy ground to a halt.
“The virus has been very expensive for the government. There are different activities that are behind our expenses -from testing, tracing, isolating people in quarantine with the government providing meals and accommodation, treating people and other activities behind the whole machine to contain COVID-19,”
“It is very expensive. We can also include what the government is missing in terms of income, just because of COVID. It’s also part of the cost that we should be counting. In terms of expenses really made, we did a budget for 6-month, 73 million USD. Today we have spent around 60m USD so far for the four months,” Dr Ngamije said.
The Minister of Health said that the outbreak of the virus disrupted everything, dealing a heavy blow to the economy, but Rwanda has been able to pick out lessons that made it more resilient as a country in terms of dealing with challenges.
He pointed out that though today Rwanda has about 1,582 cases, the country and its leadership pulled all stops to ensure that the damage was limited.
The virus has so far claimed just 5 people, and they know it could have been worse. He said that Rwanda’s efforts have been commended globally as exemplary.
“Rwanda’s response to the epidemic has been impressive. We are not the ones awarding ourselves the marks but you have heard this from other countries and from the European Union and others who rank Rwanda among the countries which have dealt with the virus in a commendable way,”
“This can be attributed to good governance, each one of us making a contribution. We joined efforts to face this pandemic head-on,” he said adding that the successful response to the pandemic is not something accidental.
He pointed out that over the last 26 years, the government has deliberately worked hard towards strengthening the health systems, which is why even the pandemic came, the government quickly mobilised resources, whether financial or human, to face the virus head on.
“There was a foundation for all this,” Dr Ngamije said.
He said that among other things, the pandemic will leave the healthcare system and the country more resilient in terms of handling unexpected challenges. Dr Ngamije said that in March when the first patient tested positive, the country could only carry out 300 tests but today the capacity has increased to more than 4,000.
The Minister of Trade and Industry, Soraya Hakuziyaremye, said the Coronavirus outbreak had a major impact on the economy -the tourism, hospitality and transport sectors being the hardest hit since the measures to fight Coronavirus were introduced in March this year.
“As of today, the government, through different institutions and partners, is working hard to revive the economy. Since May the government has allowed different services to resume with precautions, some services are yet to reopen but I would say that our economy felt the impact of the outbreak,”
“Agricultural output fell by 3% in the first quarter, exports declined by 16% due to border closures and suspension of flights since March. The assessment we have done shows that manufacturing was hit had because industries could not get raw materials,” Hakuziyaremye said.
She pointed out that 78% of the manufacturers interviewed said that apart from lack of raw materials, their profits disappeared and there was no market for produced goods as countries in the region and beyond put everything on standstill to avert the spread of the virus.
Minister Hakuziyaremye said that there are other challenges encountered during the implementation of New Coronavirus measures such as the issue of unscrupulous business people who were caught inflating prices.
Inspection carried out in the City of Kigali caught 254 traders illegally hiking prices, leading to fines and temporary closure of businesses.
On economic recovery, Minister Hakuziyaremye said that the government, with the support of partners, has set up a Rwf200 billion economic recovery fund, in which it has already put Rwf100bn, to help business resuscitate themselves, especially those in the tourism and hospitality sector.
The Minister of Local Government Prof. Anastase Shyaka said that generally, enforcing COVID-19 measures was largely successful due to the cooperation of citizens, but some challenges of people violating measures continue to be registered by local authorities and security organs.
“For example, we continue to see people getting in acts of drunkenness when bars are not permitted to open. We have closed more than 100 bars operating illegally, converging people, which goes against COVID-19 measures,”
“In these bars, we have found hundreds of people inside drinking and we arrest and fine them but these are few people who violate the measures. It is our responsibility to observe these measures because they are for us, not for the government. They are meant to protect us,”
Prof. Shyaka said that going by the numbers and assessment done by health experts, the risk remains in place and people have to be more vigilant in terms of adhering with the measures, to avoid finding themselves on the wrong side of the law.
“Majority of the people have been understanding and they cooperated with others but others still have a mindset of waiting to be policed to adhere to the guidelines. You find someone walking in public with a mask in the pocket or just holding it until they see Police,” Prof. Shyaka said.
In terms of social protection, Prof. Shyaka said that the government did provide relief support in the City of Kigali, to about 150, 000 households in the first phase when the lockdown had just been introduced and another 200, 000 households as the lockdown intensified.
“We relied on the information provided by local leaders at the grassroots level who identified the most vulnerable families. The support was given to those who were living hand-to-mouth and it was delivered to their houses, without them having to line up at government offices,” Prof. Shyaka said.
Among the items distributed were grains, sugar, rice, milk, cooking oil and other basic needs that could save them to the point they could go back to work and earn a living.
“We also witnessed acts of solidarity where people who had means supported those who did not have means but this was done in a more organised and respectful ways. When we reopened certain services, some people who were being supported came to us and said, ‘not that we are back to work, we no longer need the support’,” Prof Shyaka said.
The Spokesperson of Rwanda National Police (RNP), CP John Bosco Kabera, commended Rwandans for abiding with the measures but pointed out that there is a small section of people that continuously violates the directives.
“We have published a list of about 500 people who wantonly violated government measures, we will continue to exercise our mandate until it becomes everyone’s responsibility to observe the directives,” CP Kabera said, adding that Police is not about to relent on enforcing the measures.
Dr Ngamije said that the government is continuing to strengthen the health sector to deal with any eventuality, including preparing for the fact that COVID-19 could stay around longer than expected.
Since the first COVID-19 patient was identified on March 14, 2020, Rwanda has conducted some 210,236 tests, of which 1,582 turned out positive. Of those, 834 have recovered while 743 are still Active Patients.