Rwanda: Rise in COVID-19 Cases Derails Rwanda's Plan to Lift Lockdown

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

Rwanda on Sunday reported 11 new coronavirus cases, the highest number of infections reported in two weeks, a development that has frustrated the country's plan to reopen the economy.

The rise in cases coupled with the country's first Covid-19 death, are likely to delay the government's plan to initiate a full reopening of the economy and disrupted public transport.

Transportation between provinces was expected to resume on June 1 but this has now been put on hold.

"After reassessment, transportation between provinces and the City of Kigali, as well as passenger moto services, will remain closed until further notice in the interest of public health. Further Covid-19 measures will be announced by the cabinet on Tuesday 2 June," the Prime Minister's Office said.

The Minister of Health, Dr Daniel Ngamije, said on public radio that "reopening the economy, public transport and commercial motorcyclists at this particular moment would render all our success useless and enable coronavirus to spread across the country."

Six infections were reported in border districts, such as Rusizi which borders Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Burundi.

"The new cases comprise returning residents and cross border truck drivers and traders. Patients are in isolation, contacts have been traced," the Ministry of Health said.

On Saturday, Rwanda recorded its first Covid-19-related death - "a 65-year-old Rwandan truck driver residing in a neighbouring country who opted to return home to Rwanda after falling seriously ill."

The Health ministry said he received treatment at a specialised Covid-19 facility.

The last double-digit figure was reported on May 19, when 11 new coronavirus cases were reported. Since then, Rwanda had been reporting very few infections per day and sometimes none at all.

Two weeks ago, Rwanda relaxed the coronavirus lockdown and allowed civil marriage ceremonies to take place for the first time in two months as the country moved slowly towards a full reopening.

Curfew was also extended by one hour, with residents and traders allowed to move freely from 5am to 9pm.

Commercial motorcyclists were expected to begin work this Monday and directives were already put in place asking them to adopt stringent digital payments to reduce the risk of contracting the coronavirus through cash exchanges.

Schools remain closed until September 2020, while businesses were directed to continue operating with essential staff only while other employees continue working from home.

Rwanda's borders are still closed, except for goods and cargo, as well as returning citizens and legal residents.

Since the beginning of the lockdown in March, economic activity declined sharply, leading many businesses to lay off workers and cut salaries in order to cut costs.

By the second week of April, total turnovers and transactions declared by registered companies fell by 46 percent and 77 percent year on year respectively, according to the Ministry of Finance.

Rwanda confirmed a total of 370 coronavirus infections and 256 recoveries by Sunday.

Kenya has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the region, with 1,962 total cases, 64 deceased and 478 recoveries.

Tanzania has recorded 509 cases, 21 deceased, 183 recovered, while Uganda has reported 417 total and 72 recoveries.

Burundi has 63 cases, 1 deceased and 33 recoveries.

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