Bus passengers sanitize their hands in Kigali, capital city of Rwanda, March 14, 2020. Rwanda on Saturday registered its first case of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the ministry of health said here. (Xinhua/Cyril Ndegeya)
Bus passengers sanitize their hands in Kigali, capital city of Rwanda, March 14, 2020. Rwanda on Saturday registered its first case of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the ministry of health said here. (Xinhua/Cyril Ndegeya)

Rwandan Health Minister Daniel Ngamije on Friday said a countrywide health survey shows that there is no community transmission in Rwanda, which was the basis of a recent decision to partially lift the lockdown imposed since March 21.

Over 4,500 people, including those who had sought medical attention with COVID-19-like symptoms, in over 30 percent of Rwanda’s health centers as well as essential services providers — such as market vendors, bankers and employees in telecommunication companies who continued to work during the lockdown in the capital Kigali — were tested during the survey, and they all tested negative for COVID-19, Ngamije told a television news program.

Rwanda early on Friday announced looser measures against COVID-19 starting on May 4, while the number of new confirmed cases is increasing. On Friday the country reported six new cases, bringing its total to 249.

Analysis shows that Rwanda will be able to contain the epidemic with the new measures.

The landlocked country has been seeing a rise in COVID-19 cases among cross-border truck drivers in its daily COVID-19 update since April 24.

Vedaste Ndahindwa, an epidemiologist and lecturer at the School of Public Health at the University of Rwanda, told Xinhua that Rwanda is at the stage of “sporadic transmission” with some imported cases, whereby authorities are able to identify the chain of transmission.

It would face a major challenge if “community transmission” occurs, whereby the chain of transmission is unknown, according to the expert.

However, “we know where new COVID-19 infections are coming from, especially cross-border truck drivers, and they are easily traceable. We are in a good position to handle the cause of new cases without spreading into the population,” Ngamije said.

Rwanda also has the capability to conduct mass testing on all those who have shown COVID-19 symptoms as well as contacts of the confirmed cases, he said.

Preventive measures against COVID-19, such as social distancing, hygiene practices and the use of masks, are adequate, he said, adding the public has been following these measures.

Leon Mutesa, a health expert and professor of human genetics at the University of Rwanda, told Xinhua on Friday that although the government has decided to relax the ban, it has “strategically” maintained the closure of schools, borders, recreational facilities, bars, large gatherings and places of worship which can easily lead to the spread of COVID-19.

These, together with the mandatory requirement of wearing face masks in public places, frequent hand washing, and suspension of transport between different provinces and Kigali, are key to contain the spread of COVID-19, and “will consequently flatten the curve,” Mutesa said.

“The government will contain the spread of COVID-19 if the above stringent measures remain and people adhere to them better than they have when they were under the total lockdown,” he said. Enditem

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