Rwanda: We Are Tracking the Delta Variant in the Country, Minister Ngamije

The Minister of Health Dr. Daniel Ngamije has said that the government is currently conducting a study that will among others track the existence of Delta variant of Covid-19 in the country.

Ngamije was speaking on Tuesday June 22 while appearing on state radio to give insights on the new coronavirus resolutions announced Monday, June 21.

The highly infectious delta variant of Covid-19 that first surfaced in India is feared to have mutated into a more virulent version called Delta Plus, one that is possibly capable of resisting even the monoclonal antibodies cocktail currently prescribed as cure.

Neighbouring countries including Uganda and Kenya have already reported cases of this variant.

Asked about Rwanda's preparedness to deal with this variant, Ngamije noted that much as there are no signs of its existence in the country, there is an ongoing initiative that is expected to prove, with scientific data, if there are no local cases.

"There is an ongoing initiative that seeks to detect the Indian variant, (Delta variant) if it is already in the country, but as it stands, nothing shows that it is in the country," he said.

The minister explained that since the outbreak of the pandemic, Rwanda has reported only variants from the UK and South Africa, whose cases were treated before any local transmission.

"All the cases were found in arriving travelers and they were also tested from the airport. This allowed us to prevent any local transmission."

Viruses are always mutating and taking on new forms. The coronavirus has thousands of variants that have been identified. But several, including variants first found in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil, are highly transmissible and have sparked concerns that vaccines may be less effective against them.

However, in Rwanda, Ngamije said that while variants remain points of interest, they are not points of concern.

"People are encouraged to observe the basic protocols, such as hand washing, social distancing, wearing face masks and the 3Cs," he added, "It is not time to worry about the variants today, rather we are reminded to each play a role in slowing down the current upsurge."

With the new measures that include a 7pm curfew and suspension of inter-district travel, Ngamije said that it is possible that the current trajectory is regressed.

The same protective measures that have warded off the virus throughout the pandemic, he said are even more critical in the face of more transmissible variants.

Rwanda on Monday, June 21, registered the highest daily Covid-19 cases since the pandemic was first reported in the country over 15 months ago, after 622 people tested positive within just 24 hours.

Also, the Covid-19 positivity rate of 11.6 percent was the highest recorded in Rwanda after the 622 cases were identified from 5,342 tests that were conducted on Monday.

Overall, 31,435 people had contracted Covid-19 since the first case was reported in Rwanda in March 2020. Of these, 26,704 - or 84.9 percent have recovered.

The reported death toll from Covid-19 stands at 388, or representing 1.2 percent of the total cases in Rwanda.

Meanwhile, over 390,000 people -- or over 3.2 percent of the Rwandan population estimated at 12 million -- had been vaccinated against Covid-19 as of June 21.

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