Rwanda revises policy to meet Covid-19 bills

Saturday May 30 2020

Coronavirus in Kigali, Rwanda,

A staff of the Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC) screens passengers at a bus station after the government suspended all unnecessary movements for two weeks to curb the spread of Covid-19 Coronavirus in Kigali, Rwanda, on March 22, 2020. PHOTO | SIMON WOHLFAHRT | AFP 

IVAN R. MUGISHA
By IVAN R. MUGISHA
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To cut down costs incurred by the government in containing the spread of Covid-19, Rwanda will no longer pay the cost of accommodation for arriving travellers, a move previously adopted by other governments of the East African Community.

“All travellers are required to complete seven days mandatory quarantine. Travellers are also required to contribute to the costs including: Accommodation, meals and other services during the seven-day period, starting from arrival,” says a statement by the Ministry of Health.

Hotel accommodation was negotiated to an average ranging between $60 for the highest and $12 for the lowest, including bed and meals.

“The government was footing the bill for accommodating people under quarantine, as you may know, for a long time. But as we successfully contain the virus, this was revised so that people pay for their own accommodation at a subsidised cost, while the government focuses its resources on overcoming the pandemic,” Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, director general of Rwanda Biomedical Centre told The EastAfrican.

He said there is still no final report to determine how much the government had spent on paying accommodation for those in quarantine. However, Covid-19-related interventions are estimated to cost Rwf882 billion ($934 million) over the two fiscal years 2019/20 and 2020/21, according to the government.

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Immy Mulekatete, a Rwandan social worker, said she was grateful for the government move. She arrived from Uganda on March 15 and placed in quarantine for 10 days.

“Several others and I who had reported for quarantine were driven to Nyamata Town for quarantine. I spent three nights at Golden Tulip Hotel and moved to Palastrock Hotel for another 13 days,” she told The EastAfrican.

“I did not pay a thing. The government paid all the bills including food and accommodation. I was later discharged after testing negative for Covid-19 twice.”

But starting last week, all travellers arriving in Rwanda are to proceed to one of four facilities at their cost, for a minimum of seven days where they are tested.

If they test positive, they are taken to a treatment facility with specialised medical care, and if negative, they remain in quarantine until they are discharged after that period elapses.

They are required to continue self-quarantining for another seven days after being allowed to go home.

Other countries in the region stopped paying quarantine charges for inbound travellers.

Kenya’s Ministry of Health had in March said that any new arrival—both citizens and foreigners—would undergo mandatory quarantine for 14 days at a government-designated facility at their own cost.

The average payment for mandatory quarantine is about $260, but some individuals paid as much as $1,700 to hotels over the 14-day stay.

In Uganda, the government initially met the entire bills but changed in April and passed on the cost. Some hotels charge up to $800 over the quarantine period.

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