The City of Kigali has temporarily closed two markets blamed for a recent spike in new cases of New Coronavirus in the city as the government moves to contain an upsurge of the virus after registering 253 cases in just 3 days.
The decision to close the two markets for 7 days came just hours after the Minister of Health Dr. Daniel Ngamije said that the two markets had proved to be the source of new infections before the Sunday update was released.
Dr. Ngamije said that 153 cases of the recent cases were detected in the two markets while the Sunday numbers showed that 80 of the 101 new cases were mainly detected in Nyabugogo Market and its environs.
“When we assess the situation, it goes back to the same concerns we have raised before, of people becoming lax. When you visit these markets, you notice that people don’t wear masks properly or observe the necessary hygiene measures,”
“When you visit these markets, you will find people sitting closely together, talking normally as if everything is ok, as though COVID-19 is no longer a threat,” Dr Ngamije said, while appearing on Rwanda Television, adding that handwashing facilities or sanitizers are no longer used in these markets as it should be.
Regarding masks, he said that most people in these markets lower their masks below the chin or around the neck as though they are necklaces, while buyers and sellers no longer pay attention to social distancing requirements.
“What we see in these markets is that people are preoccupied with making money while not paying attention to safety. It should be noted that these markets are closed, the air circulation is not good and as it has been said, the virus thrives in closed places,” the Minister of Health said.
In a follow up announcement, the City of Kigali said that the two markets located in Nyarugenge district and nearby shops would be closed from August 17 to August 24 in an effort to contain the virus.
“Nyarugenge district authorities and the management of Mutangana building (Nyabugogo Market) will inform food stuff traders a temporary location to sell their merchandize,” an announcement signed by the Mayor Pudence Rubingisa said, urging traders to make sure that they remove all perishable goods.
“The removal of these goods should be done in observance of COVID-19 prevention measures,” the City directive said, adding that “the health officials will ensure that occupants are tested and the buildings are disinfected.”
Speaking earlier during the talk show, together with the Minister of Health, the Minister of State in Charge of Social Affairs at the Ministry of Local Government, Ignatienne Nyirarukundo and the Rwanda National Police Spokesperson CP John Bosco Kabera, City Mayor Rubingisa said that it is evident that city residents have relaxed.
“We are noticing that people are no longer adhering to the measures against COVID-19 as they should. This is more common in the city, where we have more people than other parts of the country,”
“People want to be policed all the time to wear their masks properly, ensure social distancing or practice the right hygiene measures. The more people relax, the more we will see cases increasing on a daily basis. It is a huge challenge to us,” Rubingisa said, urging City dwellers to reinforce adherence to government directives.
Minister Nyirarukundo said that the government is considering finding new locations slightly outside the city where food stuff markets can be relocated to decongest city markets.
“We are looking at places like Gitikinyoni and other open-air spaces slightly outside Kigali, where some of these activities can be relocated, to minimize the risk of infections,” Nyirarukundo said.
Dr. Ngamije said that for some time they have been observing the trends in markets to identify the cause due to close contact between sellers and buyers as well as touts who offload and load goods on trucks who don’t adhere to the measures at all.
“Some people have gone to a point of saying that COVID-19 doesn’t exist or that it is not as dangerous as they say, which is why they have relaxed, yet last week we lost two people, including, for the first time, a 37-year old,”
“This should be reason enough for people to understand that the New Coronavirus is still dangerous. It goes to show that even the belief that it doesn’t kill young people is not true,” Dr. Ngamije said.
He said that if the worst comes to the worst, the government would be forced to close some of the services that have been reopened or even consider a fresh lockdown if people continue to defy the existing directives for the prevention of the New Coronavirus.
“We are going to conduct a new assessment including testing people in markets and in strategic locations of the city, the outcome will determine the next course of action for the government. What I can assure you is that we will not let the situation escalate out of control beyond our capacity to handle it,” he said, suggesting that even a lockdown would be on the cards.
Dr. Ngamije said that scientists are still working around the clock to come up with treatment and a vaccine for COVID-19, pointing out that Rwanda would be among the first countries to benefit from the vaccine as soon as the World Health Organises (WHO) approves.
“We are among the countries they would consider to send the vaccine first when it becomes available because we are among the countries with functional health systems where if such a vaccine is deployed, it can be easy to track its effectiveness or the reaction of the people,”
“We have all the requirements to be among the first beneficiaries. We have seen it before; the first Ebola vaccine was sent here to test its efficacy for the same reason. So, we are confident that once the vaccine is available, our chances to be among the first beneficiaries are very high,” Dr Ngamije said.
CP Kabera warned that the Police will not allow a situation where people deliberately violate government measures against the spread of the New Coronavirus, citing illegal social gatherings in households as a main concern.
“It is a challenge. Some of these social gatherings go unnoticed but they are a huge risk factor. We cannot deploy a Police officer in every household but when we get to know, we intervene and stop these activities,”
“We want to thank people who have been vigilant, reporting these activities wherever they are happening but we want to encourage everyone to take responsibility and avoid taking part in unnecessary social gatherings or visits. If you must do it, at least make sure you observe the measures,” CP Kabera said.
Rwanda has so far registered 2,453 cases, of which 101 were recorded on Sunday. Kigali registered 80 cases in high risk zones including Nyabugogo Market while Rusizi returned Rusizi 9 positive cases, the same with Rubavu, while Nyamasheke recorded 2 and 1 case in Huye.