Rwanda: Restaurants, Salons Struggle to Enforce Physical Distancing Guidelines

Passengers queue to board a bus at Nyabugogo Taxi Park in Kigali (file photo).

Physical distancing is one of the most critical precautionary measures to contain coronavirus.

Since May 1, when the lockdown was partially lifted, restaurants, salons, hotels among other businesses were allowed to operate on conditions.

Physical distancing, ensuring their clients wear face masks as well as facilitating hand-washing for clients were the main ones.

Today, after almost a month in operation, in interviews with different restaurants and salons, The New Times learnt that owners struggle to enforce physical distancing.

"Besides some places are too small to keep the required distance," one business operator said.

Pacifica Restaurant is located in Downtown bus station.

At the time of interview, lunch was being served to dozens of people. There was barely one meter distance between tables, three to four people were seated on one table.

Asked whether distance was a concern at his restaurant, the Manager, Pacific Barirwanda replied that it is hard to convince a group of people who came to eat together to sit apart.

"We understand why physical distance is required but given our situation, if we asked customers to keep the distance, we could lose a big number of them," he said.

His concern is shared by Gaspard Kayinamura who runs a small hair salon in Kicukiro, Nyarugunga sector.

In his salon, pedicure, manicure, haircut and other services are offered. Service providers and clients are all in one room with face masks but 1-meter distance is barely kept.

Kayinamura says if he convinced them to keep the distance, his salon would barely accommodate five customers at once.

Police tightens surveillance

Police Spokesperson, CP John Bosco Kabera, on national radio on Tuesday expressed concern that the public awareness and observing basic preventive measures in falling and the police will take action.

"When you visit public places such as bus stations, people are deteriorating basic measures to contain the virus. The pandemic is not over. We will not tolerate that," he said.

Among the penalties he mentioned fines and closure for business, and detainment.

However, some restaurants like Cuppa restaurant in Nyarugenge district manage to have customers keep the distance.

Tables are big and can only be shared by three persons. Hand washing facilities are available and clients are screened before entering.

"Ensuring the safety of our clients is what keeps them coming. Safety is what everyone looks for in pandemic like this," Chloe Kabatesi, the Manager, said.

Rwanda has so far recorded zero death and 346 active cases of whom 245 have been discharged from treatment centers after recovery.

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