Rwanda has become the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to go under the total shutdown because of the Coronavirus. By the time the Rwandan government imposed the lockdown this small central African country had only confirmed 17 cases of the COVID-19 virus.
In a press release that was put out by Rwanda’s Office of the Prime Minister, all unnecessary movements outside the home have been banned for an initial two weeks except for essential services such as health care and shopping for groceries.
Both public and private workers have also been ordered to work from home to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Rwanda also closed its borders completely, except for goods and cargo and returning citizens. However, they have to be quarantined for two weeks.
The announcement released by the Prime Minister’s office in full read
Observing the global trend of the COVID-19 & considering the experiences of other countries, there is a clear need for additional steps to ensure that COVID-19 does not spread further in Rwanda. The following measures will be in force beginning at 23:59 on 21/03/2020 for 2 weeks
- Unnecessary movements and visits outside the home are not permitted except for essential services such as food shopping, health care, or banking and for the personnel performing such services
- Electronic payments or online banking services should be used whenever possible rather than visiting the banks or ATMs
- All employees both public and private should work from home except for those providing essential services.
- Borders are closed except for cargo and goods as well as returning Rwandan citizens and legal residents who will be subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine at designated locations
- Travel between different districts and cities within the country is not allowed except for medical or essential services. Transport of essential goods and food will continue to function
- Shops and markets are closed except those selling food, medicine (pharmacies), hygiene and cleaning products, fuel and other essential items
- A section of Rwandans has welcomed the measures, but in a country where many survive from hand to mouth, uncertainty looms. And there are no possible bailouts from the central government to support small and medium enterprises, despite the unforeseeable future.
- Meanwhile, authorities have warned business owners not to increase prices of basic commodities.
- Motos are not permitted to carry passengers but these may offer delivery services. Other public transport within cities will only operate for essential movements
- All bars are closed
- Restaurants and cafes may only offer take away services
- Local government institutions and security organs are tasked with ensuring compliance with these instructions
Rwanda is known for imposing draconian measures whenever crises happen, and this time of the coronavirus, it was not any different. Recently, authorities ordered the demolition of structures built in wetlands because of floods that destroyed property, infrastructure, and in some cases claimed lives, the news agency AFP reported in December 2019.