Since the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) hit the headlines, hygiene has be recommended by experts as central in curtailing the spread of the virus, which has so far been registered in over 170 countries, Rwanda inclusive.
The outbreak which has not spared Rwanda was earlier this month declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation.
Simple measures such as hand washing, and using and disposing of paper tissues, can help stop the spread of this virus which so far has no cure, according to guidelines from the health ministry, which have been widely circulated.
The government has urged most employees to work from home, while schools have been temporarily closed but health experts acknowledge the hardest of the self-protective measures to follow is maintaining the discipline and required a high level of hygiene in homes where there is no public and official scrutiny.
At public buildings, hand disinfectants or handwashing facilities have been set up for all that access them to use before they enter, while public facilities like bus parks have also made available handwashing facilities, locally known as kandagira ukarabe.
But how is it in our homes?
On Wednesday, March 18, The New Times visited several households to check really if the measures taken are being followed to curb the virus from homes and several were found to be cognisant of the dangers of the virus.
It is 2PM in Niboye sector, Nyakabande cell, Indatwa village where this newspaper visited the home of Annet Cyantegwa, a month of one.
Surprisingly, when our reporters stepped into her compound, she asked them to wash their hands before any interaction.
Life is the most precious thing, she said, adding that her household had resolved that whoever steps into their home must first wash their hands with clean water and a bar of soap which are strategically placed next to the gate.
“My husband and I have decided to ensure every visitor washes their hands before getting into our house. We started this practice after the first case was confirmed in Rwanda and we are sure to maintain it until the outbreak is fully contained”, she told The New Times.
The first outbreak in Rwanda was announced on Saturday, March 14 and by Wednesday, March 18 there were eight cases.
Cyantengwa added that greeting both by hugging and shaking hands has been prohibited at her household so as to follow the government’s measures to eradicate the virus in Rwanda.
Asked if she did not find constantly having water and soap for their visitors expensive, she said that life is the most expensive thing.
"You can refuse to buy the soap claiming it is expensive, but if you fall sick you will have to stop your daily activities which will still impact your income. Therefore, prevention is better than cure", said Cyantengwa, who works with CHARIS UAS, a local company that provides multiple services using drone technology.
Coronavirus guidelines published by the Ministry of Health “are based on evidence that the virus is transmitted primarily through respiratory droplets (large), sometimes visible droplets expelled when someone coughs or sneezes,” Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, Director-General of Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) told The New Times during a recent interview.
“Thus the recommendation to cover your face while coughing or sneezing, wash your hands properly and regularly, cleaning surfaces and maintaining social distancing.”
Officials say homes are high-risk areas because family members are constantly in close contact for a prolonged period, which elevates the chances of contracting the virus once a family member is infected.
According to Eugenia Mukandondo, a 75-year old resident of Nyarutarama cell in Remera sector, the public announcements they get from several media houses and their local leaders have been helpful in keeping families safe at home.
“We always listen to measures and recommendations by government from radio, which we pass on to our children; we, for instance, discourage them from unnecessarily leaving home and to regularly wash their hands and we appreciate what the government is doing to contain the virus”, she says.
“Households heads can and should take steps to limit the possibility of transmission, not to mention keeping their family members safer,” said Pudence Rubingisa, the Mayor of the City of Kigali.
According to him, the culture of enforcing hygiene in people's homes is not new, saying that periodically, Special Umuganda sessions are organised to maintain hygiene in homes.
“As coronavirus is contracted through several contacts, we are using media to urge the population to keep all materials that can ease transmission of the virus away from their children. Children should stay at home and the homes should have enough hygiene to keep them safe," he said in an interview with The New Times.
The practice of washing hands before accessing people's homes is fast picking momentum among members of the population across social classes.
Someone at the gate to our home, requests every body entering, including my best half and I, to stop and wash our hands before walking in. We all happily comply.— Busingye Johnston (@BusingyeJohns) March 16, 2020
100% compliance, zero enforcement. #COVID19
"Someone at the gate to our home, requests everybody entering, including my best half and I, to stop and wash our hands before walking in. We all happily comply," justice minister Johnstin Busingye twitted on Monday.Follow ByishimoBertra3