Rwanda will spend over Rwf4 billion (approximately $4 million) to import oxygen plants to increase local production as the country battles a recent spike in coronavirus infections that are leading to hospitalisation.
Officials say the current oxygen capacity is sufficient, but the government is acquiring more capacity to avoid a shortage if cases continue to rise.
“At the moment we have enough oxygen but we are importing more oxygen plants...the government decided to buy plants...this week new ones will be in the country.
“The plan is that if, for example, a hospital caring for critical coronavirus cases uses 200 oxygen cylinders per day, we at least reserve 300 for that particular hospital...” Pie Harerimana, the Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Medical Supplies (RMS), told The EastAfrican.
As of September 2020, the country had seven functional public oxygen plants that produce approximately 7,000 cylinders (50L) per month with the total maximum oxygen production capacity of the functioning public oxygen plants estimated at 355 cylinders (50L) per day or approximately 10,800 cylinders per month.
The oxygen plants are supplied by Oxymat, Inmatec, Airsep, Craft and Amico.
“For some hospitals we did piping, where we just bring in an oxygen plant. We want to have oxygen plants in each hospital and cylinders will just be used as back up,” Harerimana said.
The government imposed a partial lockdown on July 1. Covid-19 cases have continued to rise with active cases increasing to 15,397 up from 12,194 while patients in need of critical condition have increased to 57 as of July 6 up from 37 recorded on July 1. The total number of deaths has also increased to 491 up from 448.
During his national address on Liberation Day celebrated on July 4, President Paul Kagame emphasised the need to adhere to health guidelines to curb spread of the virus.
“Some relief is on the way in terms of vaccines to raise the level of protection starting with those most at risk and eventually reaching as many Rwandans as possible,” he said, adding that Rwanda is working to build capabilities to manufacture vaccines and other medications in the country aimed at reducing dependency on imports.
As of July 6, some 392,003 people have been given either one or both doses of the vaccine.
Rwanda needs three million doses of vaccine to inoculate 60 percent of its 12.6 million population by June 2022.
Rwanda has tightened Covid-19 restrictions to curb rising infections and mitigate the risk of a severe third wave that hit hard its neighbours – the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda.
The government re-imposed tight restrictions including the suspension of all social gatherings, closing schools and instructing the majority of public officials to work remotely. Curfew time was adjusted from the initial 9pm-4am to 6pm-4am.
Movements between Kigali and other provinces in the country are prohibited except for medical reasons and other essential services.
“The pandemic today is worse than ever. We are recording over 800 new cases a day. Younger people are dying, hospitals are crowded and the virus is spreading faster than before. We need to collaborate and comply with the guidelines to bring back some normalcy,” Minister of State in Charge of Primary Health Care, Dr. Tharcisse Mpunga, said on national television on Tuesday.