The Minister of State for Health in charge of Primary Health Care, Dr Tharcisse Mpunga, says the government could have reinstated a nationwide lockdown going by the current trend of the New Coronavirus in Rwanda but the cabinet had to ensure a delicate balance between containing the virus and allowing life to continue.
Dr. Mpunga made the revelation on Tuesday while explaining the Monday, January 4, cabinet resolutions which introduce tougher measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, including prohibiting movement to and from the City of Kigali.
The Cabinet resolutions indicated that given the recent rise in COVID-19 cases, with half the total deaths occurring in December, there was a need to tighten existing health measures in order to contain the spread of the virus, urging the public to significantly reduce social interaction and limit movements unless it is for essential services.
“The state of COVID-19 in Rwanda is worrisome at the moment. We are seeing an increase in daily cases which are closing in on 200 and a high number of deaths, including young people. We are seeing a trend of new cases increasing abnormally,”
“We are also seeing cases where new patients deteriorate quickly into critical condition, and these include young people,” Dr Mpunga explained, adding that since December, the spread of the virus increased, with festive season movements blamed for the distribution of COVID-19 in nearly all parts of the country.
Dr Mpunga said the cabinet resolutions are aimed at limiting movements between different parts of the country, emphasizing that going by the current trend, a nationwide lockdown was the best option.
“Normally, going by where we are today, a nationwide lockdown would be the best plausible measure due the current trend of COVID-19 but we thought such a measure would disrupt many other things, hence the decision to allow life to go on but with strict precautions,” Dr. Mpunga explained.
He said that the decisions which were made were premised on the idea that people can take individual precaution and avoid unnecessary movements and other actions that encourage the spread of the virus.
“The decision we made was to allow people to go about their essential activities while at the same time ensuring that we contain the spread, instead of reinstating a lockdown. We will review the situation in 14 days but we do hope people take personal responsibility,” Dr Mpunga added.
The Cabinet meeting maintained curfew time from 8pm to 4am, while all business establishments including restaurants, shops, markets and malls, will close operations daily by 6pm.
Public and private transport is prohibited to and from the City of Kigali as well as between different districts. Travel will only be permitted for medical reasons and essential services. Additionally, the cabinet said vehicles transporting goods will continue to function with no more than two people on board.
Dr Mpunga urged people to adhere to time by planning their movements and avoid the 8pm curfew finding them outside their homes.
On travel to or from Kigali, Dr. Mpunga said that the cabinet resolutions have to be interpreted as they are, meaning that people who live in districts neighbouring Kigali such as Kamonyi, Bugesera and Rwamagana but work in the city will have to wait for further directives, otherwise they are not allowed to travel to Kigali.
For people who the resolutions found outside their home districts either working upcountry or in the City of Kigali and want to return to their respective districts, Dr Mpunga said that those with valid reasons will be given clearance to travel by concerned authorities.
Schools to continue
Dr Mpunga also said that students and pupils will continue to go to schools, which have reopened for the second term because they found schools to be safe at this point but precautions must be taken to ensure that children don’t get infected.
Among the new resolutions, domestic and international tourists may travel across districts but must possess negative COVlD-19 test results.
Institutions (public and private) will continue to operate at not more than 30% capacity of staff. Other employees shall continue working from home on a rotational basis.
Those who were planning weddings will have to wait a little longer as all social gatherings and events including religious weddings ceremonies, receptions, meetings and conferences are prohibited.
Public gyms and swimming pools shall be restricted from the public, with the exception of tested guests staying at hotels. Similarly, attendance to wakes/vigils will not exceed 15 people while funeral gatherings are not expected to exceed 30 persons.