Rwanda has stepped up preparedness for the novel coronavirus by setting up a test lab at Kigali Military Hospital Kanombe, making country the second in the region to establish such a facility after Kenya.
The laboratory can provide results of suspected cases of the newly named Covid-19 within three hours, according to Dr Jose Nyamusore, Division Manager of Epidemic Surveillance and Response at Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC).
Like Rwanda, several other African countries are upgrading their diagnosis capability after the outbreak was declared a global health emergency and the continent confirmed its first case.
"We have experts from Germany who have been training our people. We used to test existing coronaviruses and now we also have the capacity to test this new one locally," said Nyamusore.
Beyond the testing capacity, a quarantine site has been identified and established, and a task force of healthcare workers trained. The site, once completed in a few days time, according to Nyamusore, will have capacity to receive between 250 and 300 patients. It is located in an isolated area in Kabgayi, Muhanga District.
Nyamusore noted that coronavirus is not an airborne disease as many people think. RBC personnel are also conducting screenings of coronavirus at all 30 entry points along Rwandan borders. Isolation sites and expertise in outbreak containment may serve an advantage in controlling the virus.
The Ministry of Health recently conducted the first simulation exercise, and more drills are underway, Nyamusore said.
Many countries, including Rwanda, indefinitely suspended direct flights to and from China, three of its neighbouring countries are listed among WHO's 13 top priority countries who "due to their direct links or high volume of travel to China need to be particularly vigilant for the novel coronavirus."
Strong trade links between China and East Africa might present uneasiness as thousands of travelers from both sides frequently fly back and forth between the Asian giant and the region.
Believed to have originated from the city of Hubei province in China in December, 2019, coronavirus has since spread to other 24 countries with at least 1,772 deaths (3 outside China) and 71,429 confirmed cases, according to WHO's situation report of February 17.
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, runny nose, cough, and shortness of breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, kidney failure and even death.
There are seven strains of human coronaviruses which mostly spread from an infected person to others through droplets by coughing, close personal contact such as touching or shaking a hand or touching an infected object.