Rwanda unveils social protection for the vulnerable during COVID-19

With the number of confirmed coronavirus cases on the African continent now above 10,000, Rwanda has stepped up its response to the global pandemic. Report by our special correspondent in Kigali.


With the number of confirmed coronavirus cases on the African continent now above 10,000, Rwanda has stepped up its response to the global pandemic. Report by our special correspondent in Kigali. 

Rwanda’s confirmed cases now stand at 105 with 7 of the patients having healed from the respiratory disease by press time while the rest are said to be in a stable condition, according to the Ministry of Health.  

The government of Rwanda continues to treat the patients at Kanyinya Health Centre in the capital Kigali and other district isolation centres around the country.

The new cases are identified through the ongoing tracing and testing process subjected to those that travelled into the country from countries that had COVID-19 cases.

Once a case is confirmed, an elaborated and swift process to identify and isolate their contacts kicks off. These are then placed under quarantine and tested before they can be allowed to go home or for treatment.

Several hotels in and around Kigali have been turned into quarantine centres and the government picks up the tab for those staying at the hotels. More than 500 tests are conducted every day. On 9 April, 806 samples had been tested with no new positive case identified.

Rwanda is also set to receive a second consignment of medical equipment from Chinese billionaire and Alibaba co-founder, Jack Ma. This batch of medical supplies will be delivered to all African countries and includes 500 ventilators, 200,000 protective suits and face shields, 2,000 thermometers, one million swabs and extraction kits and 500,000 gloves to be used in the fight against COVID-19.

Last month, Jack Ma delivered a total of 1.1m testing kits, 6 million masks and 60,000 medical use protective suits. “We cannot ignore the potential risk to Africa and assume this continent of 1.3 billion people will blissfully escape this crisis,” Jack Ma was quoted when he made his first donation.

Food distribution scheme

With the initial lockdown period extended by an extra 14 days – ending on April 19, the government rolled out a food distribution scheme as a way of providing for the most vulnerable people in the society starting with the urban poor who are unable to work and have no garden to get food from during the lockdown.

The exercise is supervised by the respective local leaders and involves distribution of basic food rations. The food distribution also aims at stopping the urban poor from trying to flee the city for the villages – a move that could lead to importation of the virus from the city to the rural areas. 

As expected, the Rwandan economy is also facing challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic and to address this, the IMF Executive Board approved $109.4m in funding to the government of Rwanda to be used to address the economic impact of COVID-19. 

Other forms of support have also been coming in from different private sector entities like the big corporate firms that have donated money and supplies to be used by the national task force charged with stopping the spread of coronavirus in the country. Some of the big donors include the major banks.

On 5 April, a statement from the office of the prime minister announced that senior government officials had agreed to forfeit their April salary as a contribution to the funds needed in the fight against COVID-19.

“In solidarity with the most affected Rwandans, the Government of Rwanda has decided, over and above ongoing social protection initiatives, that all Cabinet Members, Permanent Secretaries, Heads of Public Institutions, and other senior officials shall forfeit one month’s salary (April),” said the statement.

Due to the lockdown in place to slow the spread of the virus, Rwandans were for the first time compelled to commemorate the 1994 Genocide from their homes without any gatherings allowed.

For the latest news on coronavirus visit the African Business liveblog

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