Information last updated: 22 April, 2020
- Level of confinement and until when: Total confinement except for necessity needs: shopping, medical services etc. (source).
- Number of confirmed cases : 850 (June 25)
- Number of deaths: 2 (June 25)
Response set up and capacity
At the national level, the response to the pandemic is led by the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the National Security Services (Rwandan Police) and the central administration. At the district and decentralized levels, district hospitals and health centers are equipped to examine all suspected cases and transfer them to the appropriate locations. The local administrative authorities work closely with the medical services to raise awareness regarding compliance with the measures taken.
The Ministry has set up and equipped a hospital with sufficient medical staff where all patients are treated free of charge. Their families and all those whom they have come into contact with are traced by a medical team and placed in isolation for 14 days.
Entities / Organizations
• Ministry of Health
• National Police
• Central Government
• Ministry of Local Government
• Different non-governmental organizations
• Private Sector Federation
What is the capacity of the public health system?
The health system is well organized and coordinated. Health services for the population have continued in all hospitals and health centers in the country. Hospitals have the basic equipment to screen for COVID-19 infections and suspected cases are sent to designated areas. However, apart from one exception the hospitals are insufficiently equipped to handle serious cases (ventilation machines etc.).
All hospitals are asked to prepare an isolation room for patients suspected of having COVID-19. Preventive measures to protect the health care staff on the ward have also been put in place.
Mitigating factors - What is being done?
- March 14: the first case of corona virus was confirmed by the Ministry of Health. The following measures were taken shortly after:
- Primary schools, secondary schools and universities were ordered to close. Churches, receptions and conference halls are also closed, gatherings at wedding parties prohibited etc.
- The population has been asked to follow rigorous hygiene practices. Several hand washing points with detergents are installed in various locations; targeted places are restaurants, bars, shops, markets, food places and supermarkets.
- March 21: the government declared following containment measures to be put into place for 15 days (subsequently extended until April 30):
- Non-essential travel outside one’s home is prohibited except for access to essential services such as health care, food, banking and for employees working in these essential sectors;
- All workers will be required to work from home except those providing essential services;
- Borders are closed except for the transport of goods and freight. Rwandan citizens and external residents may return to Rwanda but will be subject to a 14-day quarantine period upon return;
- Travel between the country’s cities and districts is prohibited except for medical reasons or for the proper functioning of essential services. Transportation of food and essential goods will continue to operate;
- Stores and markets are closed except for food stores, pharmacies, gas stations and all stores offering essential services;
- Motorcycle taxis can no longer carry passengers but only make deliveries. Public transport will only be used for essential movements and must maintain a safe distance of one meter between passengers;
- All bars are closed. Restaurants and cafés will only be allowed to carry out take-away sales.
- April 19: masks must be worn on all outings and in multi-family accommodations.
How are local and international actors responding to the crisis in the country?
Containment measures have affected many people in the informal sector who are left without income and food. The government has focused on providing basic needs to the vulnerable, especially those living in urban centers with low incomes who are hardest hit. The local governments have also supported villages to organize themselves so that those who are better off help the most deprived in their neighbourhoods. Civil organizations, NGOs and the private sector have also provided food support according to their means.
The Central Bank has announced measures to mitigate the economic impact of the virus, including a 53 million USD facility for commercial banks to borrow in order to reduce credit rates.
Risks, vulnerabilities, obstacles
- Risk of food shortages and rising food prices: as a small landlocked country with reduced food imports, many Rwandans are struggling to acquire sufficient and adequate food.
- Families without income: informal work has stopped, many people are unemployed, without a source of income and uncertain about the future.
- Without transport, people are forced to walk long distances to obtain essential services.
- The only approved source of information is the Ministry of Health who provides data/statistics. Other sources such as the WHO make general projections for the whole continent of Africa, highlighting that cases in Africa may increase and calling for adequate measures to be taken. However, taking into account the containment measures accompanying COVID-19 in Rwanda, and the reduction in confirmed cases, there are differences between the WHO and national projections.
What are the weaknesses identified by experts for an effective national response to Covid-19?
- Non-compliance with the containment measures: some people continue to travel, make unnecessary trips or abuse the trips to go to markets etc.
- Insufficient social support (food) to those affected by the pandemic.
- Insufficient screening equipment and insufficient capacity to care for infected persons if the number of confirmed cases increases significantly .
To what extent has misinformation contributed to public awareness of Covid-19?
- Only authorized sources can provide information to the public. The government has taken steps to stop unreliable sources of information. Information on the crises is only given by government-accepted sources (public and private Rwandan radio).
Potential actions and demands
Stakeholders have generally endorsed the measures taken by the government and are collaborating in mobilizing support for these measures. Each actor, taking into account its field of activities, has adapted its action plan with the support of the government and everything is being done in compliance with the measures put in place.
Requests are expressed to meet both emergency and long-term needs:
- Meeting the nutritional needs of the poor, the marginalized and the vulnerable people hit by unemployment.
- Support for government responses to combat the virus with targeted tactics: testing each suspected case, isolating and caring for each confirmed case, tracing and quarantining all close contacts.
- Mitigation of direct economic consequences.
Contributor(s): Cecile Teteli.