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Total lockdown looms if violation of COVID-19 preventive measures persists

By IGIHE
On 5 January 2021 at 01:31

The Minister of State in the Ministry of Health in charge of Primary Healthcare, Dr. Tharcisse Mpunga has observed that ‘total lockdown’ should be the best option for the increasingly spreading COVID-19 pandemic noting that the decision has not been taken lest people’s livelihoods are seriously affected.

Dr. Mpunga made the observation as he explained why the Government has taken stringent measures to contain the spread of Coronavirus.

Since Rwanda confirmed the first COVID-19 patient on 14th March last year, 8848 people have been tested positive out of 741,036 sample tests of whom 6816 have recovered, 1927 are active cases while 105 have succumbed to the virus.

Following the increase of new infections and deaths where half of current death toll was reported in December 2020, the cabinet meeting held on Monday 4th January 2021 has banned public and private transport to and from city of Kigali as well as between different districts.

Among other resolutions, all business establishments including restaurants, markets, shops and malls shall close operations daily by 6pm.

As for transport restrictions, the cabinet meeting decided that travel will only be permitted for medical reasons and essential services. Additionally, vehicles transporting goods will continue to function with no more than two people on board.

Dr. Mpunga explained that there was possibility for tougher measures but the Government considered other aspects of life that would be affected if total lock down is imposed.

“People should understand that we should be in the phase of total lockdown considering the current status of the pandemic. Cabinet resolutions were alleviated because we didn’t want to put Rwandans lives at standstill. We realized that it is not the right time because it would leave people’s livelihoods in critical conditions,” he said.

“The new measures are designed to allow people continue running basic activities where necessary adhering to preventive measures meanwhile doing health assessment on the increase or decrease of the pandemic,” added Dr. Mpunga.

He explained that closing businesses at 6pm is meant to help people return home earlier which can also reduce traffic jam or susceptible accidents as people rush to reach home before curfew hours.

The cabinet meeting has also prohibited movements from 8pm to 4am and decided that inter-district travel will only be permitted for medical reasons and essential services while vehicles transporting goods will continue to function with no more than two people on board.

Dr. Mpunga revealed that permitted medical reasons include medical transfers using ambulances while an individual can take a patient to a health facility with possession of medical test results.

He explained that the decision also concerns people living in the neighborhood of Kigali City returning home every day.

As Dr. Mpunga said, relevant institutions will not prohibit movements for people granted passes.

“Relevant officials will make decision whether a person can be allowed to make inter-district movements for specific tangible reasons. If necessary, an individual will have to go for COVID-19 test before authorization,” he noted.

Concerning employees who had traveled to enjoy festive seasons in different parts of the country, Dr. Mpunga explained that no special arrangement for them because current measures require institutions (public and private) to operate at no more than 30% capacity of staff.

Commenting on new measures, the Minister of Justice and State’s Attorney General, Johnston Busingye has via twitter handle reminded Rwandans to adhere to preventive measures that things otherwise worsen.

“Happy New Year Rwandans. 2021 starts but Coronavirus is biting. 105 have succumbed to the pandemic, half of whom died in December 2020. Not a small number is critically ill. Current Covid-19 news is disappointing. You understand what next if inter-district lockdown is not successful. Let us protect ourselves willingly,” he said.

As he featured in a talkshow on local TV and radio stations, the Minister of Health, Dr. Daniel Ngamije recently on 13th December 2020 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.

Other factors connected to spread of the virus, include some hotels and restaurants that have been reportedly turned into bars while bars guise as restaurants so as to sell alcohol. Police also revealed that some people conceal bottles of alcohol in envelopes or pour alcohol in cups while some hotels have turned into night clubs.
The Minister of Local Government, Prof. Anastase Shyaka recently said that the partnership between the Police and local authorities created a big impact especially between July and September 2020, 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, 2020.

Appearing on local TV station towards the end of December 2020, Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, the Director General of Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), related new cases to activities allowed to reopen and complacency against COVID-19 preventive measures.

“Of course, the increase of new patients is related to reopened activities including schools one hand. Secondly, the up surging number is driven by complacency against preventive measures among Rwandan residents. It has been observed that some people relented on some measures including proper wearing of face mask, social distancing. Thirdly, we are assessing the impact of cold weather conditions during this rainy season on spreading the disease,” he said.

Dr Nsanzimana highlighted that attendance to ceremonies for the past three months has also been among causes for increasing cases that people tended to behave as if they were in normal situation.

The lockdown imposed last year put several activities on standstill.
The Minister of State in the Ministry of Health in charge of Primary Healthcare, Dr. Tharcisse Mpunga has explained that there was possibility for tougher measures but the Government considered other aspects of life that would be affected if total lock down is imposed. .

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