Rwanda: COVID-19 - Rwanda On a Lockdown, Essential Services Remain Available

An aerial view of Kigali Convention Centre and its environs in Kimihurura.

Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente on Saturday declared a countrywide lockdown and only essential services will be allowed to remain in operation.

The lockdown is part of the effort to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19) which has ravaged the world and Rwanda has already registered 17 cases.

In a statement released Saturday evening, the prime minister declared that effective midnight on Saturday, all the country's borders will be closed for the next two weeks.

Observing the global trend of the COVID-19 & considering the experiences of other countries, there is a clear need for additional steps to ensure that COVID-19 does not spread further in Rwanda. The following measures will be in force beginning at 23:59 on 21/03/2020 for 2 weeks - Office of the PM | Rwanda (@PrimatureRwanda) March 21, 2020

Other measures include a temporary ban on non-essential travel between different cities and districts across the country, while all employees in the public and private sector will work from home.

Only those providing essential services will be allowed to leave their homes.

The government also imposed a ban on the use of motorcycles to transport passengers and they will only be allowed to carry supplies.

"Borders are closed except for goods and cargo as well as returning citizens and legal residents who will be subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine at designated locations," reads part of the statement.

Also banned are unnecessary movements outside homes except for providers of essential services, while electronic and only payments were encouraged in order to minimise hard currency in circulation.

According to the government all these are measures taken to contain the virus from spreading.

Rwanda has since last Saturday recorded 17 cases of the virus and according to the health ministry, the patients continue to recover.

"Rwanda has taken serious measures to avoid escalation of the outbreak as it is being observed in other countries. If necessary, we will extend the period of the lockdown from the initial two weeks," said Vincent Biruta, the foreign affairs minister and government spokesperson.

No one has died of the virus in Rwanda.

All markets and shops selling foodstuffs and other essential groceries will remain open.

Also to remain open are hospitals, pharmacies, petrol stations, among others while public transport will also be allowed to remain in operation to service the providers of these essential services.

However, the transporters will have to observe the necessary precautions, including maintaining hygiene and ensuring passengers keep at least one metre between them.

All bars will be closed while restaurants and cafes will remain open but will only provide takeaway services.

The minister of health, Dr Daniel Agamije explained why they found it necessary to restrict travel between Kigali and other cities.

"Most of the cases were found in Kigali and we want to avoid it spreading in other cities of the country by groups of people travelling from one city to another," said Ngamije.

Government has immediately tasked local government institutions and security organs to ensure compliance with the new instructions.

The announcement follows several other preventive measures whereby schools, church services and masses, conferences and other events, have been postponed, temporarily closed or cancelled, while employers have been directed to let their employees work from home.

Globally, by Saturday, 301,552 coronavirus cases had been recorded while the death toll stands at 12,955.

According to the World Health Organisation, 94,625 have recovered from the virus that was first reported in China and has since spread to over 170 countries.

People are urged to wash hands frequently, avoid touching one's eyes, nose and mouth, cover one's cough, avoid handshakes and keep social distance, avoid crowded places and close contact with anyone that has fever or cough, stay at home if a person feels unwell as well as seeking medical care early if they have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

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