The Minister of Health Dr. Daniel Ngamije on Monday said that the government was forced to revise and tighten further measures against the New Coronavirus after it emerged that the virus was spreading fast in a matter of days.
The government has reviewed COVID-19 preventive guidelines three times in a space of a week, the latest measures released on December 19, five days before Christmas, among other things introducing mandatory vaccination to access public vaccination.
The latest guidelines followed reviewed cabinet resolutions released on December 17, revising the December 14 measures. Minister Ngamije said the revised measures were a result of the growing number of cases, especially in the capital Kigali.
“What is clear is that people are not adhering to the guidelines as they should. We have many cases of people getting not just complacent but also reckless in their actions,”
“We have a case of people who went ahead to host a wedding even after testing positive and others of people who attend weddings without testing as a prerequisite. We have also had cases of people forging test results,” Dr. Ngamije said.
The Minister of Health added that they also observed that people are deliberating flouting existing measures, including the number of people attending weddings, many exceeding the set number, while social distancing and wearing masks are also being disregarded.
“People have become complacent. It is as though COVID-19 does exist, going by their actions,” Dr. Ngamije said, adding that positive cases have been identified in certain groups and categories of people, all as a result of laxity and not adhering to measures.
He explained that over the last few days, the number of positive cases increased tremendously, moving from five people in 100, 000 testing positive to over 46 people.
“Five people out of 100, 000 was not worrisome but we moved from that number to 25 people and even more worrisome, to at least 46 people in 100, 000 testing positive in the City of Kigali and in less than 10 days,” he added.
Dr. Ngamije pointed out that the sharp rise in positive cases is a result of laxity and it could get even worse in the coming days as they expect some to turn into critical cases.
“We cannot wait to get to a point where we cannot handle the number of cases in our treatment centres. As a government, we had to act quickly to prevent the trend before it is too late,” he explained.
As the festive season closes in, Dr. Ngamije said that gatherings of any kind are prohibited and guidelines will be enforced to ensure that people don’t become reluctant during the festive season.
The health minister emphasized that it is everyone’s duty to ensure that they protect themselves and others by ensuring that they are fully vaccinated and tested regularly.
On Omicron, Dr. Ngamije said that the new variant is in Rwanda as the Ministry recently confirmed, adding that considering the rapid mutation of the variant, the best option is to vaccinate and observe preventive measures.
Minister Ngamije clarified on the cost of PCR tests for arriving passengers, which is still higher than the revised price of Rwf30, 000, pointing out that arriving passengers pay an extra Rwf10, 000 for logistical expenses.
“Passengers arriving have to pay Rwf4,7000 instead of Rwf57,000 which they were paying previously. It should be understood that the cost of the test is the announced Rwf30, 000,”
“However, considering that there are costs attached to moving samples from the airport to the labs and everything else involved, an additional Rwf10, 000 is charged,” Dr. Ngamije said, adding that the government has done its best to subsidize the cost.
No vaccination, no pint
The Deputy CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), Zephanie Niyonkuru, elaborated further on the new measures, pointing out that as per the new guidelines, all people visiting bars will have to present proof of full vaccination or won’t gain access.
“The other new aspect is that for people going to gyms, swimming pool and other recreational facilities will present a test that is not older than 24hrs, instead of 72hrs previously,”
“Similarly, as bars continue to open gradually, all patrons will be required to present proof of full vaccination. While other businesses will be closing at 9pm, bars will be closing at 8pm,” Niyonkuru said.
The Minister of Health said that the measures are aimed at limiting human contact as much as possible as one of the ways to effectively curb the spread.
Under the new stringent guidelines issued by the Prime Minister, Dr. Edouard Ngirente, which will be reviewed in two weeks’ time, parties, wedding-related receptions, concerts or other forms of gatherings are prohibited.
However, traditional, civil and religious wedding ceremonies are permitted but should not exceed 40 persons in Kigali and 75 in other provinces while those conducted in homes won’t exceed 20 people under the supervision of local authorities.
Event organisers, the communique said, are liable to being penalised once the measures are not implemented efficiently.
Public buses will operate at full capacity with seated passengers only, while all windows must be open for proper ventilation, but travellers to and from Kigali must present vaccination certificates.
Places of worship will also operate at 30 and 50 per cent capacity in the city of Kigali and other provinces respectively while business owners urged to vaccinate employees
Minister Ngamije emphasized the decision to enforce mandatory vaccination, particularly in the City of Kigali, mainly because it is the safest way to beat the pandemic.
“The vaccines are available. People are required to go to the nearest health centre or vaccination site and get their full doses or booster dose. The importance of this cannot be emphasized,” Dr Ngamije said, adding that the booster shot has been proved to be effective.