Tiny Rwanda wins accolades for successful pandemic war

Thursday, August 13th, 2020 00:00 |
People who did not respect the measures to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 are forced to sit and listen the prevention speeches for a few hours in Nyamirambo stadium. Photo/AFP

As Kenya struggles to get its fight against Covid-19 pandemic right, Rwanda appears to be ticking all the right boxes in the war against the disease.

Since June, Rwanda has been getting international accolades for its successful efforts to put the disease under control.

On Monday, the World Health Organisation Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus singled out Rwanda, New Zealand, Mekong Region and Island States across Caribbean and Pacific as proof that there is hope in defeating the virus.

“New Zealand is seen as a global exemplar and over the weekend Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern celebrated 100 days with no community transmission, while stressing the need to remain cautious.

Rwanda’s progress is due to a similar combination of strong leadership, universal health coverage, well-supported health workers and clear public health communications.

All testing and treatment for Covid-19 is free in Rwanda, so there are no financial barriers to people getting tested,” he said.

Testing programme

As Kenya opts to put some breaks in the mass testing programme, citing lack of commodities, Rwanda last month started random testing dubbed Drive through Covid-19 testing, targeting over 5,000 people to get a status of the disease in Kigali City.

The exercise is to be repeated after every two weeks. Adoption of pool testing where samples from 20-25 nasal swabs are put into one vial and put through the machine, has allowed them to test many samples at once.

If the test is positive then all the samples that were included in the vial are tested individually.

However, medical experts believe Kenya is on the right track in terms of fighting Covid-19 and comparing her efforts to Rwanda’s is the same as “comparing apples and oranges”.

Prof Omu Anzala, a virology and immunology professor at the University of Nairobi, said Kenya is doing the same thing Rwanda is doing in terms of tackling the pandemic, but the dynamics of the two countries are different because of population, which is largely rural and young and the political system is different. 

“We need to put things into context. Rwanda has a population of over 12 million and it is basically a police state so we are not facing similar challenges in terms of implementing Covid-19 response strategy.

We are offering treatment and testing for free. Our only challenge is in terms of testing and it is because of lack of commodities,” said Anzala. 

Rwanda appears to have put its Covid-19 cases under control with only 2,171 confirmed cases, 1,478 recoveries and seven deaths since the outbreak was reported on March 14, a day after Kenya recorded her first case.

In Kenya, the number of infections currently stand at 28,104 cases, 14,610 recoveries and 456 deaths.

Anzala says Kenya has deliberately avoided the pool testing system because it has inherent challenges, including the fact that mixing samples with different variables could dilute them and interfere with results.

Anzala says mass testing in South Africa has also not helped to bring the numbers down and therefore Kenya is opting for targeted testing to save on resources.

Prof Mwatilu Mwau, the head of Kenya Medical Research Institute testing and research centre says Kenya is getting many things right in the fight against the disease and is on the road to flattening the curve.

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