June 22, 2021

For First Time, Rwanda COVID-19 Infections Exceed 600 Cases

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Health officials at a tracking facility in Kigali record details of arrivals

The arrests of flouters of regulations are back in the daily news reports, so have media appearances by officials sending stern warnings. The country is facing a surge of COVID-19 infections never seen since the pandemic started early last year.

For Monday alone, the health ministry reported 622 cases, and had been growing for past days. The capital Kigali is back in the leading seat as host of the biggest infection rate – having 305 cases yesterday.

Rwanda is in the midst of third wave involving community spread in all the 30 districts. It is the reason cabinet sat on Monday afternoon and suspended inter-district travel for the next two weeks, as well as increased night curfew hours – from 9pm back to 7pm.

The 662 figure reported on Monday is the highest daily infections so far, compared to 575 cases recorded on January 26.

The current wave began three weeks ago with over 200 daily cases, after a lull for months where infections were below 50 daily.

The health ministry announced last week that of the more than 247,000 people who have received the second dose of the vaccines, at least 400 of them had tested positive for the virus even though they had no symptoms. The news caused a bit of fear in the population, but they seem tired and are increasingly opting to live their lives.

It is from here that the authorities are sounding alarm bells over the growing infections, telling the population that part of the reason has been due to complacency, as people relax vigilance.

The health ministry also said last week that the new wave of infections had arisen following the arrival of thousands of people from eastern DR Congo as result of the volcanic eruption in early May.

The new wave is regional. Uganda is battling a similar surge with 1,099 cases recorded Monday. It has been like that for well over a month and the country is also in partial lockdown involving first-time ban on inter-district travel.

Rwanda’s land borders remain closed except for cargo trucks. Kenya is also recovering from its own explosion of infections. It announced 218 cases yesterday.

Tanzania and Burundi have largely maintained a low profile with regard to the pandemic. According to people from there, Burundi has never implemented any of the control measures as we know them; social distancing, masks, lockdowns and curfews.

In Tanzania, the new leader President Samia Suluhu has been encouraging mask wearing and urging her people to sanitise. However, no curfews or lockdowns have been implemented.

Tanzania has kept its COVID infections, if there are any, on the shelves, not releasing them. Burundi has done the same. These Rwanda’s neighbours have maintained that they only have imported cases of people coming from outside, who are treated and release when safe – which they say avoids local spread.

It is unclear how the COVID situation is in Tanzania, Burundi and South Sudan.

In addition to India where a new variant of the virus ravaged the country, Rwanda has also put people coming from Uganda on mandatory 7 day quarantine when they arrive even if they come with the required negative PCR test.

National carrier RwandAir has also suspended flights to and from Uganda, which has been interpreted in Ugandan media as Kigali’s deliberate jibe at Kampala as the two remain at silent war for over two years now.  

Strangely however, the UK maintains Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi and Tanzania on its ‘Red List’ of countries whose travelers are banned there. Uganda is not on the list, a bizarre state of affairs. Rwandan, including President Paul Kagame himself, have been furious over that ban.

Meanwhile, at the same time, the European Union announced last week that Rwanda was among a select number of countries whose travelers can enter the bloc – a major public relations coup which was obviously touted by government supporters.

Rwanda’s economy also heavily is struggling. Last week, it got another $150m from the World Bank, the latest foreign cash injection that has seen the country’s debt exceed more than $7.6billion or over 76% of GDP, and will grow to more than 80 percent by year end.

When the cabinet sat on Monday, it did something rare. The new measures would come into effect on Wednesday – which essentially gives time to anyone who is not at home to immediately return. Previously, measures have been implemented immediately, causing silent uproar in the population.

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