The leadership of the Catholic Church in Rwanda has issued guidelines to its members as a protective measure from the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Rwanda has recorded no case of the epidemic, however, the Government and other institutions in the country have continued to step up vigilance.
Globally, the virus has spread to over 80 countries, infecting more than 100,000 people so far and causing more than 3,400 deaths.
In Africa, cases have been reported in South Africa, Cameroon, Nigeria, Togo and Algeria which is the worst-affected with about 17 cases.
In a communiqué issued on Saturday and signed by ArchBishop Antoine Kambanda, the Vice President of the Catholic Episcopal Conference of Rwanda, the Church leadership put measures that its churches all over the country are required to follow in order to prevent the COVID-19 risk.
Among these, the Episcopal Conference ordered that during Holy Communion, the congregants will receive the bread by hand, not by the tongue as it was being done.
In addition, according to the communiqué, the faithful will not be using the blessing water which they often touch before entering the church,
“During the time of entering the church, it is not allowed to touch the place where the blessing water used to be because it is not available until the time that this problem (COVID-19) is solved,” read the statement.
The Church leadership also urged the faithful against greeting each other with hugs and handshakes.
“Sharing the peace of Christ will be done by heart, not by hugs or handshakes,” it said. “We are required to follow the regulations given by the institutions in charge of health in Rwanda.”
The clerics asked the Christians to continue praying for God’s protection.
The Church promised that if necessary, more regulations will be issued.
The Government stepped up its alertness towards preventing the epidemic from entering the country.
An extraordinary cabinet meeting, chaired by President Paul Kagame on Friday, reaffirmed a strengthened approach to contain the potential spread of the COVID-19, and the efforts are led by the Office of the Prime Minister along with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Local Government and Security organs.
The Government has also urged all Rwandans to take appropriate precautions and follow the advice of health professionals and avoid unnecessary internal or international travels and large gatherings.
How can you reduce the chances of being infected?
According to the WHO, you can reduce your chances of being infected or spreading COVID-19 by taking some simple precautions:
1. Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub, it is noted, kills viruses that may be on your hands.
2. Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing. When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain the virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
3. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
4. Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately. Why? Droplets spread the virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
5. Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority. Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent the spread of viruses and other infections.
6. Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow the advice given by your healthcare provider, your national and local public health authority or your employer on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on whether COVID-19 is spreading in your area. They are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.
7. Keep up to date on the latest COVID-19 hotspots (cities or local areas where COVID-19 is spreading widely). If possible, avoid traveling to places – especially if you are an older person or have diabetes, heart or lung disease. Why? You have a higher chance of catching COVID-19.