Rwanda: Novel Coronavirus - Govt Issues Safety Advisory for Travelers

Airport workers wear face masks at China's Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport.
24 January 2020

The Ministry of Health has issued a safety advisory for institutions in the travel industry in the country concerning the safety of passengers travelling to other countries, especially where cases of the deadly Novel Coronavirus have been reported.

The respiratory illness was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year and has continued to spread to more cities, while cases have also been reported in other countries like South Korea and Thailand.

Recent information shows that the outbreak of the novel has infected at least 571 people and killed 17.

Effective Thursday, Wuhan City of China was quarantined, a move that saw air, bus, ferry and rail terminals closed in a bid to prevent people leaving the city and potentially spreading the disease even further around China.

With direct flights between China and Rwanda as well as other contacts in the form of tourism and business, Rwanda is looking at strengthening its vigilance against the possibility of the virus finding its way to its territory.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Health held a news conference in which it briefed journalists about the measures in place among which travel industry actors (airliners) have been urged to provide safety gear to their passengers, as well as taking time to educate them about the virus and how they can stay safe from it,

"What we did as a ministry is holding a meeting with institutions engaged in travel, especially air travel, and advised them to encourage their clients to limit travel to affected areas. We also told them that it is good to monitor their passengers and try to detect such suspicious signs like cough and flue," said Dr Diane Gashumba, the Minister for Health.

"We also advised travel institutions (airlines) to provide passengers with gear for covering the nose and mouth so that if there is one or two infected people onboard, they will not infect others. They have started to implement this."

According to Gashumba, air travel institutions were also asked to provide passengers with washing equipment that are able to kill the virus.

Chinese officials investigating the illness have said that the disease can spread from person to person but can be halted with greater vigilance.

The ministry has also urged the general public especially travelers to take special preventive measures, including avoiding animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meat); avoiding contact with sick people; washing hands often with soap and clean water (use alcohol-based hand sanitizer in case they don't have access to clean water and soap).


Dr Kasonde Mwinga, the World Health Organisation (WHO) country representative, told journalists yesterday that WHO has issued interim guidelines and is being updated regularly as more information comes out.

According to Kasonde, the guidelines are basically advising countries on how to identify people who are sick, and how to care for people who are infected.

She called upon countries "to remain vigilant and to make sure the health systems are strong not just for the new coronavirus but for emerging infections that may come to us from time to time."

Common signs of the novel coronavirus infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, runny nose, cough, shortness of breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, kidney failure, and even death.

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