Rwanda: Rising Virus Cases Dampens Plan for a Full Reopening

Rwanda's surge in coronavirus cases this week could dampen plans to fully opening up the economy soon.

The increasing numbers, according to the Health Ministry, is attributed to increased testing across the country.

On Monday, the country recorded 59 new infections, the highest single-day spike since the pandemic was reported in March.

The cases are spread over five districts in Kirehe, Rusizi, Kigali, Nyamasheke and Rubavu, largely attributed to truck drivers from the region and their contacts.

Kirehe District, which borders Tanzania and Burundi in the east, has recorded 41 cases mainly due to cross-border activities at the Rusumo One-Stop Border Post.

"The Kirehe District cluster is a controlled group of truck drivers and their contacts; this is different from community transmissions," Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, the Director General of Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), told The East African.

As of Wednesday, Rwanda's Covid-19 tally stood at 830 with this week alone recording 100 new cases. The cases were from over 10,000 tests, according to the Health Ministry.

Since the first case in mid-march, Rwanda has tested over 121, 527 people, according to Health Ministry statistics. Two people have died from the virus.

But the surge in infections now coincides with Rwanda's decision to reopen sections of the economy as the government is planning to partially lift the lockdown every after two weeks of assessment.

It has stepped up health campaigns urging citizens to observe safety measures including physical distancing, washing hands and mask wearing in public is mandatory.

According to the Health Ministry, the elderly--considered the most vulnerable--are encouraged to test especially in the two districts still under total lockdown Rusizi and Rubavu.

"All people above 60 years in the sectors still under lockdown are invited for testing at the village testing hubs or at district hospitals. This also goes out to individuals with underlying conditions who are generally registered in respective health facilities," Dr Nsanzimana added.

Rwanda's economic growth is expected slowdown as a result of Covid-19 impact which has highly disrupted its tourism activities.

An economic recovery is expected to begin in 2021, according to the Ministry of Finance, with a set of economic measures put in place by the government to ensure that growth fully rebounds by 2022.

In order to boost growth during the pandemic, mobile money charges were reinstated last week after a suspension period of 100 days.

Hotels are also allowed to host conferences and tourists are allowed to jet into the country on chartered direct flights.

However, tourists must have tested negative 72 hours before travel and are tested again on arrival at their own cost. Public transport, including the popular use of commercial motorcyclists, has also resumed with the exception of Rusizi and Rubavu Districts which are still under total lockdown.

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