Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente, flanked by senior government officials on Tuesday hosted a news conference to address new covid-19 restrictions. The restrictions are due to a surge in daily Covid-19 cases and the emergence of new variants. From the longer curfew hours to the slashing of Covid-19 test costs, here are 10 key takeaways. 1. Covid-19 restrictions tightened further Effective July 1, all schools and higher institutions are closed in Kigali including some other parts of the country. This, alongside other new measures, are part of the resolutions announced Tuesday, June 29 to further curb the spread of the virus. Since early this month, the cases have quad rippled, from an average of 50 cases recorded in the past four months. Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente (centre) and other government officials give more details about the new Covid-19 restrictions during the news conference in Kigali on Tuesday, June 29. Photo: Olivier Mugwiza. “There is no single factor that has led to the current upsurge in cases,” said Minister for Health Dr Daniel Ngamije, adding, “It is a collection of factors including a spike in cases in the region, Uganda-based Rwandans who continue to return home, DRC refugees who fled to the country after Nyiragongo eruption.” Ngamije said that all that combined, with the increased laxity among Rwandans are the main reasons for the worrying trajectory. 2. Rwandans urged to collaborate in the fight against Covid-19 In his remarks, Prime Minister Ngirente called on the public to bring together efforts that will ensure the pandemic is slowed down. “As a country, we need a collective effort to ensure that this pandemic is contained. It should not be on anyone’s watch that people are reminded to observe the protocols.” Questioned on what triggered the new measures, Ngirente pointed out that resolutions are entirely based on data. “It is not the public influence like many would assume. The government has a role to weigh between containing the pandemic as well as the socio development of its citizens.” The premier said that the news conference was an opportune moment to remind Rwandans that the pandemic continues to evolve across the country. “It is not like during the first time where we recorded cases in some parts of the country. This calls for individual responsibility as we collectively put our efforts together to contain this pandemic.” 3. Rwanda to issue digital certificate to the fully vaccinated Effective July 1, many countries especially in the European market will only facilitate travellers with possession of the digital ‘vaccine passport’, also commonly known as the Green Pass. The immunity passport will serve as proof that a person has been vaccinated against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), or recently tested negative for the virus, or has the natural immunity built up from earlier infection. In Rwanda’s case, Minister Ngamije said the government is ready to issue the certificates only for the fully vaccinated. “Those who need the ‘green pass’ will get them, we have all the records,” he said. The vaccination certificate is not a substitute for a travel document and holders must also provide a passport or identity card, depending on their destination. 4. Cost of rapid Covid-19 test reduced The Ministry of Health together with various partners is in advanced talks to drop the rapid Covid test from the current Rwf10,000 down to Rwf5,000. This was confirmed by minister Ngamije in an exclusive interview with The New Times, shortly after the presser. He attributed the move to the increase in production of testing kits. “We now have 5 certified suppliers as opposed to only one when the price was initially set.” The public has previously decried high test costs as one of the reasons that deprive them of voluntary testing practices. 5. Police ready to enforce new Covid-19 guidelines According to Inspector General of Police (IGP) Dan Munyuza, police, alongside other stakeholders, have the capacity of enforcing all Covid-19 preventive measures in ensuring maximum compliance. The IGP said that while it is not the police’s priority to arrest and impose fines on the violators, “Whoever violates these measures will be held accountable.” We have noticed some violations like people visiting each other at home, not wearing masks, no social distancing and violating curfew hours. “We urge the public to observe the measures as much as possible.” 6. Candidates to sit their exams despite schools closure During the press conference, the government reassured that students will complete their, rather challenging, academic year. Candidates will also be allowed to sit their national exams. This, officials said while shedding light on new measures that require some schools to close down starting Thursday. A statement from the Prime Minister’s office noted that “But provisions for students sitting for national examinations will be communicated later.” 7. Students to be facilitated to return home Students are set to be facilitated back home under an arrangement led by the ministry of health, the ministry of local government and the police. A letter signed by Gaspard Twagirayezu, the Minister of State in the ministry of education indicates that boarding students based in Kigali will be the first to return home during the 4-day exercise. Twagirayezu reminded school leaders to ensure that the timetable is observed. The Minister of Local Government Jean Marie Vianney Gatabai also called on the returning students to observe the new measures in place. 8. Government warns against violation of self-isolation guidelines Meanwhile, minister Ngamije gave a stern warning to Covid patients who recklessly continue to violate self-isolation guidelines, citing that it is one of the emerging loopholes of the new cases. “This has to be addressed,” he said, “The government cannot accommodate all the patients and that is why some patients, especially those who have no symptoms, have been asked to self-isolate from their homes.” However, Ngamije said, we have seen an increase of people who continue to violate these rules, and it should be clear that we are going to impose hefty fines on this practice. 9. Offices ordered to close, markets and malls to operate at reduced capacity Some parts of the country will, Thursday, only open their offices to employees who provide essential services. In addition, restaurants will also be allowed to provide take away services, with consumers encouraged to seek open-door venues. The working capacity in markets was also brought down to 50 per cent, with vendors only selling essential items. 10. Business community remains optimistic despite stringent measures According to the Ministry of Trade and Industry Beata Habyarimana, the business community should remain optimistic for recovery if collectively they abide with the new measures. Habyarimana shared sentiments with Eric Gishumba, the Private Sector Federation Vice Chairman, who said that businesses operating at 50 per cent should be a reminder to further comply with the set guidelines.