Rwanda’s cabinet on Friday evening extended the COVID-19 national total lockdown to April 30, making Rwanda one of the places that have experienced longest stay-home order.
With 5 new cases identified yesterday, making it total of 78 active cases and 65 recovered, all the new infections are local Rwandans. This means, there are many people out there still walking around with the virus, and government couldn’t risk lifting the lockdown.
It was first ordered on March 14 for two weeks, then extended to April 19 – adding up to 35 days. Now it has been extended for an extra 11 days.
Going by social media reactions, many people in Rwanda had actually expected the extension to be much longer. To have an idea of President Paul Kagame’s thinking and his cabinet as they decided way forward, one needs to look at what the World Health Organization (WHO) is saying.
Its director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, from Ethiopia, not only has a good personal relationship with President Kagame, but his home country also does.
During his regular press conferences on Tuesday, the WHO chief outlined conditions he says governments, mainly those managing poor countries, need to consider before lifting the controls.
One of the current concerns affecting the WHO is to ensure that countries control lockdown relaxation regulations in a methodical and structured manner.
He stated that whilst relaxation measures were welcomed in the likes of Austria and Denmark, he was anxious that a hurried approach could lead to a ‘deadly resurgence of the virus’.
The WHO outlined six (6) key areas the need to be looked into before a country eases confinement restrictions, also suggesting the earliest for many poor countries cannot be before December.
Any country which wants to lift controls, says WHO, must first meet these six conditions;
- Disease transmission is under control
- Health systems are able to “detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact”
- Hot spot risks are minimized in vulnerable places, such as nursing homes
- Schools, workplaces and other essential places have established preventive measures
- The risk of importing new cases “can be managed”
- Communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to live under a new normal
Without all these in place, it is unimaginable how President Kagame will sit with his cabinet and decide to peal away the layers of restrictions.
For the billions of people now living under some form of stay-at-home or lock down orders, experts from the World Health Organization have new guidance: We should be ready to “change our behaviors for the foreseeable future,” they say, as the agency updates its advice on when to lift COVID-19 lock down orders.
For Rwanda, the virus is going to turn upside down the entire social, economic and political fabric. Even if Rwanda opens up, it will be with completely new ways of living.