The Government of Rwanda Friday urged citizens to stop handshakes and close body contacts as part of efforts to contain the New Coronavirus (Covid-19) threat. While Rwanda has not recorded any Covid-19 case the virus continues to spread to several African countries more than two months after the first case was reported in China. In Africa, Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Cameroon, South Africa and Senegal have all confirmed Covid-19 cases recently. Globally, more than 95,000 people have been diagnosed with the virus, the vast majority in China, where 3,015 deaths have occurred while 267 deaths have been recorded elsewhere across the globe, mostly in Italy and Iran. While the virus spreads faster than most similar infections registered in the past its fatality rate is estimated to be between 2% and 3% and most victims are older people or those with weak immune systems. Rwanda has in recent days stepped up efforts to prevent the outbreak of the virus, including introducing thermographic cameras at the Kigali International Airport that screen new arrivals, setting up a labaratory and creating an isolation facility outside the capital. An interministerial task force has since been set up to coordinate different preventive efforts, while a command centre made up of technocrats in charge of daily operations has also been created. In a statement, the Prime Ministers Office has called on the public to; avoid shaking hands and close body contact such as hugging; avoid unnecessary travels to countries affected by Coronavirus, and cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing in public. Handshaking is a common greeting habit in Rwanda. For full Public Notice on COVID-19: https://t.co/YsttVEhyKC pic.twitter.com/X2fggVuErb — Office of the PM | Rwanda (@PrimatureRwanda) March 6, 2020 No case of Coronavirus has been reported in Rwanda so far. However, given the severity of the epidemic and rapidity with which it spreads, we urge all Rwandans to take appropriate precautions and follow the advice of health professionals,” reads part of the statement, adding: “We urge everyone to avoid handshaking and close body contact like hugging.” The virus spreads from person to person mainly through the droplets produced when an infected person speaks, coughs or sneezes. The Government called on members of the public to regulalry wash their hands with clean water and soap or hand sanitizer. Covid-19 was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern by the World Health Organisation in January this year. Preventive measures stepped up The Government has stepped preventive measures in the past week. Local government authorities have strengthened hygiene campaigns in a bid to prevent the outbreak of infectious and contagious diseases, including New Coronavirus. In nearly all public places in Kigali – bars, supermarkets and spaces – disinfectant gels are used by people before they enter such places. Over the past weekend, parents and guardians who visited students in boarding schools found soap, water and washbasins at school entrances. According to the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), national preparedness and response capacity to deter COVID-19 is continuously being upgraded to ensure early detection and response to any suspected case at all entry points of Rwanda. Efforts have also been scaled up to ensure the effectiveness of the test lab at RBC’s National Referral Lab in Kigali. Containment of outbreak feasible More and more countries in Africa are stepping up their preparedness to detect and cope with COVID-19 importations, according to a report titled “Preparedness and vulnerability of African countries against importations of COVID-19,” published by The Lancet, a medical journal. Global health experts note that containment of the outbreak is feasible and must remain a top priority for all countries. According to Global Health Strategies (GHS), an international consulting company that specialises in global health communications, advocacy, research and strategy, “with early, aggressive measures, countries can stop transmission and save lives. The international community is mobilising for US$675 million to help protect states with weaker health systems as part of strategic preparedness and response plan. Last week, UN Humanitarian Chief Mark Lowcock released US$15 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to WHO and UNICEF to help fund global efforts to contain the COVID-19 virus.