The Rwandan government on Tuesday night took bolder steps to further reopen the economy, allowing taxi-motos to return to the roads and inter-provincial travels to resume.
The initial plan was to lift the two restrictions on Monday, June 1, but a cluster of new Covid-19 cases in the western border district of Rusizi forced the Government to delay the decision until they got a handle on the situation.
Subsequently, Rusizi and Rubavu – another district bordering DR Congo with busy cross-border traffic and business engagements – were left out of the relaxed travel arrangement and instead placed under stricter limitations.
In particular, no public transport – including taxi-motos and vehicles – is permitted in the two districts.
Tuesday’s decision to lift more restrictions took the country into phase three of the gradual exit from a lockdown that paralysed business and affected livelihoods.
For starters, Rwanda is one of the countries that chose to listen to science in the fight against Covid-19 and that meant swallowing the bitter pill.
But, as the nightly Covid-19 updates from the Ministry of Health have been showing us, the battle is far from over. As a matter of fact, the country has suffered its first coronavirus deaths only in the last five days – a 65-year-old truck driver and a 24-year-old policewoman – both having returned to the country in critical condition. It is unfortunate that by the time the two victims received medical attention it was too late to save their lives.
Nonetheless, there is no need to panic. We now have more Covid-19 recoveries than active cases and most of the patients are in stable condition. This is testament to the hard work of frontline workers and government as well as citizen compliance and cooperation. Most importantly, it’s proof of the effectiveness of strict social distancing measures the Government took early on.
Yet, we must continue to be careful even as we seek a return to normal life. There are lessons around the world to learn from. One of them is that there is no short-cut to winning this war. We must be ready to follow health guidelines right to the end, otherwise all the sacrifices we’ve already made will be in vain. The guidelines include protecting each other by properly wearing the facemask, washing our hands accordingly, avoiding unnecessary travels, practicing physical distancing, respecting the curfew, seeking medical assistance whenever you suspect you might have Covid-19, among other precautionary measures.