The surging number of cases has attracted Government’s attention to warn the public against disregarding COVID-19 health guidelines to contain further spread.
This saw officials from concerned institutions featuring in talkshows on local TV and radio stations where they expressed concern over increased violation of safety and health guidelines leading to increase in COVID-19 infections.
The Minister of Health, Dr. Daniel Ngamije, while speaking on a talkshow on Sunday, which was live on a number of local TV and radio stations, said that the high level of complacency and individual behaviours is spreading the virus leading to increase in daily infections, thus derailing the national response efforts.
"The surge in the number of cases in the last two weeks has caused concern; the rate of infections is high, we are now seeing infections in many parts of the country and in various groups of people," Dr. Ngamije said.
He added: "COVID-19 has so far killed 56 people in Rwanda, including four deaths in the last three days. We have seen that it kills even young people including those with no other underlying health conditions. We are seeing infections in business centres, schools, medical workers, prisons. It’s so unfortunate that this surge in infections is largely due to complacency and human behaviours that disregard the set health guidelines."
As the country awaits the arrival of the vaccine, probably in the next three months, Dr. Ngamije reiterated the need to ensure maximum compliance.
"Young people account for the majority of violators. When you seat somewhere in a social gathering, even if you observe physical distancing, but not wearing a face mask, within 30 minutes, everyone around you will be infected. There are also traders, some of whom have been arrested, who forge certificates thus spreading the virus."
The Minister of Local Government, Prof. Anastase Shyaka said that the partnership between the Police and local authorities created a big impact especially between July and September, which partly gave room for the resumption of some services.
"In October and November, many services resumed, lockdown lifted in all places, but unfortunately people misinterpreted this as an indication that the pandemic has been defeated. They became complacent and started disregarding the safety measures," Prof. Shyaka said.
He further warned of stringent measures against the so called ’the informed’, elite group and leaders, who violate the prevention measures.
According to Prof. Shyaka, about 9600 hospitality establishments have been closed since March for breaching the national prevention directives, with 347 of them closed between December 1-9.
The Minister of Trade and Industry, Soraya Hakuziyaremye warned traders that a single infection in a business centre can lead to the closure of all businesses in that area.
"Selfishness and being profit-oriented without considering the dangers of COVID-19 you are exposing other people to will not be tolerated," Minister Solaya warned.
Rwanda National Police (RNP) spokesperson, CP John Bosco Kabera noted that violations are now high like never before during this pandemic period.
"The inappropriate behaviours call for stringent measures against those who move beyond 10pm or before 4am; people attending authorised events beyond the permitted number and to stop such events in circumstances where violations are observed. It is now time to take a punitive approach," CP Kabera warned.
Complacency and disregard for prevention directives, CP Kabera said, is also observed in the big numbers of violators intercepted, including those without face mask or wearing it inappropriately, physical distancing and those found operating bars.
"This is not the time for self-satisfaction. Authorised events like weddings, funerals, vigil, services like hotels, restaurants and markets must adhere to the safety guidelines. “We have also abserved that people using taxi-motos seem to be caring about their hair and they wear fabrics inside helmets but do not wear face mask or wear it badly. Preventing the spread of COVID-19 requires respecting every bit of the directives wherever you are and in whatever you do."
Although the Police continues to raise awareness and to educate the public, CP Kabera said that this goes with taking appropriate action against errant violators.
"Every situation informs new required measures, anyone caught disregarding the directives will face immediate consequences," the spokesperson warned.
He hinted on hotels and restaurants that have been turned into bars; bars that guise as restaurants so as to sell alcohol; people concealing bottles of alcohol in envelopes or pour alcohol in cups; and hotels that have turned into night clubs.
"Whatever you do that is contrary to prevention measures just to avoid being arrested by the Police, remember that you are not hiding from the COVID-19," CP Kabera said.
"As we head into the festive season, there are some people, who think that they will just go about their social events; Coronavirus does not know Christmas or New Year. Nothing has changed in the directives, but rather such period informs us to ensure maximum compliance."
Rwanda confirmed the first COVID-19 case on 14th March 2020. Since then, 6659 people have tested positive out of 667 894 sample tests of whom 5955 have recovered, 648 are active cases while 56 have succumbed to the virus.
Coronavirus symptoms include coughing, flu, and difficulty in breathing. The virus is transmitted through the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract.
Rwandans are urged to adhere to COVID-19 health guidelines, washing hands frequently using soaps and safe water, wearing face masks and respecting social distancing.