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Rwanda opens 7 COVID-19 centers in provinces

Landlocked African country Rwanda decentralizes COVID-19 response, issues guidelines for air travelers

James Tasamba  | 07.08.2020 - Update : 07.08.2020
Rwanda opens 7 COVID-19 centers in provinces


Besides decentralizing responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, the East African country of Rwanda has issued a series of safety measures for travelers. 

Located in the Great Rift Valley, where the Great Lakes region converges with East Africa, landlocked small country reopened its airports for commercial flights last week, but kept its land borders still closed.

Travelers destined for Rwanda are required to test twice for the COVID-19 within 72 hours of departure and get screened before entering into the airport, according to a statement issued by the country’s health ministry.

“We are now adopting the decentralization strategy, where experts are deployed to different provinces to help districts to build their capacities in terms of response to COVID-19,” Tharcisse Mpunga, Rwandan State Minister in charge of Primary Healthcare told Anadolu Agency.

According to US-based Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Center, Rawana has so far reported 2,111 COVID-19 infections with 5 deaths. As many as 1,258 people have recovered.

The minister said that testing centers are being set up in provinces, to help to trace and treating infections so that at national level health workers concentrate on the capital Kigali.

He said the ministry is now able to test some 5,000 samples a day up from the initial capacity of 400.

The ministry has set up seven testing centers countrywide, to decongest Kigali, where all samples were tested.

“The goal is to ensure that provinces are self-sufficient as they will no longer need to rely on lab services in Kigali, which will enable medical staff in the city to concentrate on national cases,” he said.

Government underlines strategies

Marie Kalisa, 54, said she felt relief at being tested at the newly equipped coronavirus lab in Rusizi district, where the government declared a partial lockdown due to a spike in cases.

Underlining several strategies employed to stem the spread of the virus, the minister said the government was trying to test as many people as possible, isolate those who are positive and treat them in specialized treatment centers, and trace contact cases.

The government has also imposed partial lockdown in areas, where many cases have been identified.

While the strategy is not 100% effective, Mpunga believes the government has been able to limit the coronavirus transmission. He, however, said the challenges come from people’s behavior and their reluctance to comply with public health measures.

Vedaste Ndahindwa, an epidemiologist working for the World Health Organization (WHO) in Rwanda, said the country dedicated a lot of effort in terms of coordination mechanisms, case management, infection control, and risk communication.

On patients’ recovery, Mpunga said while it depends on the individual's immunity, on average it takes three weeks to clear patients.

The ministry of health last month announced spending $60 million to contain COVID-19 pandemic. Since the outbreak of the virus in Rwanda in March, the government had allocated $73 million for six months, according to the ministry of health.

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