Rwandan social media is once again going silent. The flamboyant gatherings at which attendees shared fan pictures, will not be permitted as government moves to cub spread of the COVID-19 virus.
In the past three days alone, infections topped over 280 cases from a trend that has stayed above 50 daily cases for nearly three weeks. These are very high infection rates for such a small country as Rwanda.
The rates caused so much alarm that three government ministers and police spent hours over the weekend on the media attempting to highlight the situation.
They threatened the country would very likely go back into lockdown, despite an economy on its knees. The ministers pointed out the many social gatherings taking place such as private parties and weddings, were the super spreaders.
Some of these gatherings were organized in such a way that there was no limit on attendance, and locked themselves inside when curfew time reached.
Local government minister Prof Anastase Shyaka noted that at parties and in bars or restaurants, it always begins with social distance – which slowly disappears as more alcohol reaches the tables. It gets to point where those in attendance opt to stay and close doors to avoid the authorities.
As a result, cabinet meeting chaired by President Paul Kagame on Monday late evening issued new restrictions which essentially mean the country is going to have a quiet festive season.
All social gatherings including weddings and private parties are banned for three weeks.
The night curfew which had been at 10pm to 4am, now comes to; 9pm to 4am. But then from December 22 to January 4, 2021, the night curfew will be in force from 8pm to 4am.
The last time when the curfew was at 7pm till morning, there was a shocking spike in road accidents as drivers and moto taxi riders rushed to get home. Curfews in Rwanda are strictly enforced, whereby culprits spend the night in stadiums coupled with fines – a seemingly light but very effective deterrent.
Government and public offices have also gone back to effective stay home orders; they are required to have less than 30% of employees working at any given time. The rest are to work from home.
Prayer gatherings, another area where congregants had simply began ignoring the curb on numbers, are required to open only once a week – essentially on Sundays. There had been daily reports of people found locked and crowded inside, especially with evangelical churches.
Musanze district in northwestern Rwanda, which is a major conference and tourism area, is to have its own night curfew from 7pm to 4am and other measures. It is unclear exactly why the area saw more than 20 cases daily in past few days.
With parties banned during the festive season of Christmas and the new year, the country will be unusually quiet as people will have to stay in their homes as only members of that particular family.
Concerts and cultural shows which were only allowed to reopen last week after more than 9 months, are again back to lockdown. There had been excitement as the people employed in the showbiz industry thought finally they would begin to make some money.
Entertainers have basically just been left to do their craft to online audiences – a feat many are yet to commercialise to be able to survive from it.
Like the government ministers and the police pointed out at the weekend media appearances, “covid-19 doesn’t have Christmas or new year celebrations”, and it its now confirmed; we too won’t have them.
Public transport is also now only allowed to carry 50% capacity – going back to days of long lines because there aren’t many buses to cater for the large number of people who need the service.