Rwanda grapples with rising Covid-19 deaths

Friday January 01 2021
Covid-19 Rwanda.

A staff of the Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC) screens passengers at a bus station in Kigali, Rwanda on March 22, 2020. PHOTO | FILE | AFP

By Ange Iliza

Rwanda is grappling with a spike in coronavirus-related deaths which have increased sharply over the festive season.

As of Wednesday, December 30 last year, the country confirmed 122 new Covid-19 infections, raising Rwanda's tally of positive cases to 8,250. Of these, 6,369 have already recovered. Some 725,804 tests have so far been done.

Health officials point to complacency and late diagnosis as the main reasons for the surge in Covid-19 mortality numbers.

The infections are spread across the country, while prisons continue to produce a number of infections each week.

While most of the deceased are individuals who are 60 years or older, on Wednesday, Rwanda recorded the highest number of deaths since March 14 when the first Covid-19 case was recorded. Seven people lost their lives, including a 13-year-old girl from Nyamasheke district, the youngest victim of Covid-19 so far.

According to the Ministry of Health, 40 percent of all the 86 Covid-19 deaths were recorded only in December. The rate of coronavirus infection rose from 0.5 percent in November to 3.6 in one month and patients in critical condition rose from less than 10 to 45 in December.


Of the 8,250 infected people since March 2020, some 77 percent have recovered and 2,000 are being treated either from their homes or various treatment centres.

Rwanda's Minister of State for Health, Dr Tharcisse Mpunga attributed the spike to complacency during the festive season as many people stopped following the safety guidelines.

“Increasing numbers are a result of people who, regardless of the spike, continue to hold parties and celebrations, go to bars, markets, and other public places without observing the measures,” he explained during a roundtable discussion on local media.

He added that some people are reluctant to get tested for coronavirus until the symptoms get worse.

According to Mr John Bosco Kabera, the Rwanda National Police Spokesperson, in the week of 15-21 December last year, 54,000 people were caught violating the measures, and during the Christmas week the number increased to 57,000.

Vehicles that were found violating the curfew increased from 661 before Christmas to 937 in the week of Christmas.

Mr Kabera expressed frustration that “some people have completely ignored some measures such as keeping physical distance and avoiding unnecessary travels.”

Hundreds of people have been arrested, detained overnight, and fined for violating curfew regulations.

On December 14, a cabinet meeting that determines Covid-19 measures prohibited all public gatherings, including weddings, and revised curfew hours to begin at 8pm and end at 4am. The next cabinet meeting is expected to be held in the first week of January 2021.

To make testing simpler, the Health ministry has authorised up to 42 private clinics to carry out Covid-19 antigen rapid tests.

Rwanda is also expected to purchase two vaccine types: AstraZeneca, from a British-Swedish pharmaceutical company, and another by American biotechnology firm Moderna.

Rwanda has a total of 114 intensive care unit beds, 90 fixed ventilators, and 130 portable ventilators prioritised for Covid-19 patients, according to the Rwanda Biomedical Centre.