Govt warns against foreign travelers on non-recommended Covid-19 test results

Inside Kigali International Airport's arrival area. Rwanda warns against foreign travelers on non-recommended Covid-19 test results. Sam Ngendahimana

After reopening up for foreign travelers, Rwanda is facing a challenge of visitors that have come in with tests done in a way that the ministry didn’t recommend, which has given local officials an additional burden of isolating them until new results have been processed for them.

“After opening the country’s airspace, we have received some passengers who came with RAT (Rapid antigen test) results while we clearly said we are only accepting PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test results,” said Dr. Daniel Ngamije Rwanda’s Minister of Health, adding that this gives Rwandan officials an additional burden for isolating them, and re-testing them to find out if they are really negative.


Ngamije made the remarks while speaking in a webinar alongside Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the Regional Director of the World Health Organisation Regional Office for Africa and other officials spoke to journalists about several issues concerning the pandemic.


The PCR (Molecular) tests detect genetic material (RNA) of the virus, as opposed to antigen tests which detect the presence of the body’s immune response, or antibodies. 


Antigen tests are faster, less expensive than molecular tests are, and some experts consider them more practical for use on large numbers of people.

However, these tests have some limitations where; a positive test result is considered very accurate, but there's an increased chance of false-negative results.

This means it is possible to be infected with the virus but have negative antigen test results.

For molecular tests, they are considered very accurate when properly performed by a health care professional.

Rwanda reopened its skies on August 1 allowing commercial flights to once again operate in and out of the country after more than four months of suspension due to Covid-19.

And according to Rwanda Development Board’s guidelines, all travelers arriving in Rwanda must have tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of departure.

In addition, it said all travelers arriving in Rwanda will be screened upon entry and be given a second test to confirm the negative results of the first test done prior to arrival.

Rwanda has been using PCR tests in its fight against Covid-19, and it is such tests that the government requires from travelers that come to Rwanda.

Dr. Menelas Nkeshimana the head of case management in Rwanda’s Joint Taskforce for Covid-19 said PCR tests are the most recommended gold standard, and though they require a lot of resources, they are more sensitive and specific than other testing modalities.

Health minister Dr. Ngamije also mentioned more challenges Rwanda is facing in its fight against the virus, where he pointed out the threat of cross-border transmissions in the region.

“For us, it appears that there is still a lot to do to harmonise and synchronise interventions in the region. We are still facing high risk of cross-border transmission with truck drivers who operate in the region,” he said.

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