Health authorities in Rwanda warned the public against complacency hours after four people were discharged from a novel coronavirus treatment centre after twice testing negative.
The four men, three Rwandans and one Burundian, who had been admitted to the Kanyinya health facility on the outskirts of the capital Kigali for at least two weeks, were discharged Sunday, April 5.
"This is good news, the entire process was conducted in accordance with established protocol," Health minister Dr Daniel Ngamije said during a video news conference Sunday afternoon.
The first negative test on the four men was run on Wednesday and the second on Saturday, he said.
"This is an outcome of people being tested and treated early," the minister said, urging anyone in the country who presents COVID-19 symptoms to urgently call toll-free line 114.
Ngamije said the discharged individuals were each given a certificate to confirm that they had no more COVID-19 viral load, and urged their families and community at large to warmly welcome them back.
"Of course it's good that they take a few days to rest to fully recover from the psychological effects," he said.
But the recoveries, the first in Rwanda which recorded its first case over three weeks ago, Ngamije said, "do not mean that this is a minor disease... it largely depends on how people's immune system reacts."
The development is welcome news in a country that saw coronavirus cases reach 102 after 13 new cases, including nine community infections, were confirmed on Saturday, April 4. None of the 98 active cases that remain in hospital is in critical condition and the country has not recorded any COVID-19-related death.
To date, the health minister said, all the confirmed cases have been recorded in the capital Kigali.
Rwanda is under lockdown with everyone required to work from home except for critical services such as healthcare, farming, security, media, and banking. Travel between districts has also been suspended while borders have been closed, with only cargo transportation unrestricted.
Scientists and governments across the world are grappling with the question of whether or not members of the public should be advised to wear face masks to help curb the spread of the virus.
Recent findings that the virus can be transmitted through breath and talking - besides droplets released when an infected person sneezes and coughs, as well as touching contaminated surfaces - have renewed debate on the importance of wearing the masks in public places.
Most countries are promoting measures recommended by World Health Organization, including social distancing and regular handwashing.
Globally, there are fears that encouraging members of the public to wear masks could make the materials even scarcer for medical personnel and other frontline workers, as well as those who are taking care of COVID-19 patients.
Food distribution 'generally smooth'
Meanwhile, Local Government Minister Anastase Shyaka said during the video briefing that the ongoing distribution of emergency food and other essential supplies to vulnerable Rwandans will continue, dispelling claims that the exercise was marred by irregularities.
"The exercise is about 98 per cent smooth," he said, adding however that a few isolated issues were detected in a few areas mostly where distribution was not done door-to-door but at designated points.
"We've identified a few cases and this is being resolved," he said, adding that the exercise is being conducted at the lowest grassroots administrative levels of Isibo and Umudugudu, where capacity is generally modest.
Shyaka also hailed the outpouring support from Rwandans of all walks of life - young and old - who are extending a helping hand to those most in need during this period.
"We are so grateful to the youth, men and women across this country that have come forward to support the most vulnerable among us during this crisis," he said, clarifying that the door-door distribution of relief supplies will continue.
The exercise has so far been conducted twice in urban centres and the amount of food and other basic items a household receives is in accordance with international standards on relief operations, Shyaka said.
The supplies, which are drawn from the national strategic reserves, are normally meant to last for three days, he added.
Trade and Industry minister Soraya Hakuziyaremye said government was doing everything possible to ensure that trade continues despite prevailing circumstances, and for businesses, including export and import operations, to rebound after the crisis.