Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, Rwanda has been lauded for its effective responses and for adequately driving the vaccination rate which highly contributed to mitigating the spread of the pandemic.
The New Times' Alice Kagina had an exclusive interview with Dr. Edson Rwagasore, Division Manager of Public Health Surveillance and Emergency Preparedness and Response at Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), to elaborate on the overview of the Covid-19 response.
The world continues to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic; what is the current response outlook for Rwanda?
Currently, the Covid-19 situation has significantly decreased in terms of numbers for the past two months with all 30 districts of Rwanda reporting a low incidence rate of below five cases per 100,000 population in the last seven days from May 11, and there has been no deaths and no critical conditions reported in more than two months.
As of May 10, a total of 19,882 laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 cases had been detected, and only 33 cases of them were still active while 1,459 total deaths were reported.
What have been the major measures that helped in the fight?
During the pandemic, the best approach has been the use of data and evidence in guiding decisions.
A multi-sectoral approach has helped the country to smoothly coordinate interventions such as surveillance, case management and educating the public on prevention measures.
Sharing of information about cases has also resulted in gaining trust from the population and strengthened community engagement.
Youth volunteers are among the key front line workers during the pandemic by ensuring that all preventive measures and regulations are followed especially in crowded areas.
What do figures on vaccination and positivity rates say?
A total of 8,440,032 people are fully vaccinated in Rwanda and 4,324,560 people received the booster dose, as of May 9. This reflects the decreased number of death and critical cases.
The last death case was recorded on March 7, as for the positivity rate, it is at 0.1 per cent, which is currently very low.
China has recently witnessed another wave of the pandemic, should we be worried?
Covid-19 response and preparedness has never stopped in Rwanda despite the decrease in cases.
Testing activities and surveys continue in schools, roads, bars, and for incoming passengers, and currently, no alert has been seen. The increase of cases and emerging variants of concerns require us to remain vigilant and ensure that we mitigate the spread.
What is Rwanda's current laboratory capacity in the face of Covid-19?
Rwanda has 11 laboratories that have the capacity to collect and test PCR with trained staff and enough equipment to test up to 20,000 people per day.
Currently, all health facilities have the capacity to test using rapid tests.
Some lessons learnt from the pandemic to share?
Adequate investment in primary healthcare as a foundation and identification of key isolation/ case management sites (Kanyinya Treatment Centre and Kabgayi), as well as capacity building of human resources in terms of training and refresher courses for rapid response teams, and frontline workers.
We also saw the importance of innovations which helped us in procuring necessary materials for responding to the pandemic such as robots, drones, electronic bracelets, GPS tracking systems for cross border trucks, and digital software.
We also collaborated closely with the private sector to produce hand sanitisers, masks, PPEs, thermoflash. We established a continuous community engagement of turning citizens into actors which resulted in no vaccine hesitancy, and providing useful information through different platforms such as call centres, command posts, and police, among others.
Exposure to a pandemic and an emergency situation contributed to skills generation for preparedness and response to the next outbreak or Covid-19 wave, including systematic isolation to Home Based Care (HBC) where all patients were followed up on a daily basis was made easy due to community awareness and engagement.
The pandemic also presented opportunities for health system strengthening in terms of expanding laboratory capacity countrywide and creation of new treatment facilities (Nyamata mobile hospital) to stop using existing health facilities and allow them to re-gain full medical services and increased ICU Capacities in each Provincial Hospital for severe cases management.
What should people know in terms of the preventive measures and what's next in this regard?
Preventive measures are important and key in the fight against pandemics and containing the spread. There is a need to keep complying with the preventive measures.