March 13, 2021

One Year Later: A Bright Light is Emerging After COVID-19 Devastated Livelihoods in Rwanda

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Since last week, the country has been carrying out perhaps one of the most extensive vaccination programs for COVID-19

On March 11, marks one year after the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. In Rwanda, the first case was reported by the health ministry on March 14, 2020 – four days after the WHO announcement.

It was on March 21, that the first national lockdown was imposed in Rwanda. Since then, as The Chronicles has been documenting in its special coverage, the country, at least the ordinary people, has been on its knees. You can access our extensive coverage HERE.

Our first glimpse into the devastation was detailed in our first story: 60% Rwandans Lose Livelihoods Due to COVID-19 Lockdown, and Need Urgent Help

A year later, a new global study has found that a variant of the virus first detected in Britain is deadlier than other previous versions. Rwanda has yet to report cases of the new variant.

The study published Wednesday this week in the British Medical Journal said people infected with the B.1.1.7 variant were between 30% to 100% more likely to die than others infected with other versions, with the average rate about 64%.

The B.1.1.7 variant has been detected in more than 100 countries since it was first detected last September in southeast Britain. Previous studies show the variant is far more contagious than the original version.

So far different vaccines have been developed including from the U.S, China, Russia, UK and Europe. Other nations also say they are developing own vaccines and treatments.

All but one of the vaccines is taken as a single dose. As many nations struggle to vaccinate their citizens against the novel coronavirus, U.S. President Joe Biden is promising to share any surplus of the single-shot vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson with the world. Biden made the pledge Wednesday this week when he announced the U.S. would purchase another 100 million more doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to boost the nation’s COVID-19 supply.

A group of U.S. researchers said this week that people who have already been infected with COVID-19 only need a single dose of the two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna regimen. In a letter published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, 32 scientists with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, said a small study reveals that people who had recovered from the virus developed about 10 to 45 times as many antibodies after their first dose as the average uninfected person.

More researchers have accepted a theory that once a person has had COVID-19, their immune system will mount a stronger and quicker defense once a vaccine triggers the body to start producing antibodies again.

As many as 40% of those who test positive for COVID-19 have no symptoms at all, but 2% of people who get sick die. It’s especially deadly in the elderly. COVID-19 has killed 1 of every 66 people older than 85 in the USA. Among those infected, some percentage – we don’t know how many – cope with crippling long-term symptoms that plague them for months. Future health impacts remain unknown.

Despite a persistent conspiracy theory that SARS-CoV-2 was developed in a lab, perhaps an infectious disease lab in Wuhan, China there’s no evidence to support the claim and plenty to counter it.

In March, a group of researchers found the virus most closely resembled bat viruses and was not man-made.

Where is Rwanda’s patient ONE? Back then when Rwanda announced its first case, it didn’t give identity of the patient. To avoid stigma, covid patients in Rwanda have remained quiet. Even for those who recovered, not many are willing to come out, except those highlighted in The Chronicles coverage.

As of today, the health ministry has been releasing daily update as seen in the infography below:

Since last week, the country has been carrying out perhaps one of the most extensive vaccination programs for COVID-19. At least 250,000 have got their first dose including market venders, moto taxi drivers, local village security guards and journalists. The authorities have put together a wide ranging list to ensure those who get it are actually those who really need to the jab, to protect the wider population.

In June, the country is preparing to host up to 10,000 delegates for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit (CHOGM). So far, language from the Commonwealth Secretariat, the UK government and Rwandan officials, is that all delegates and leaders are expected in Kigali.

It may be the first such international event held face to face like it was when there was no pandemic. CHOGM may be the testing as to whether global gatherings can take place safely.

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