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Kigali International Airport. Rwanda will effective Sunday, November 28, 2021 reinstate the mandatory 24-hour quarantine for all arriving passengers as officials move to control potential entry and spread of the new deadly Covid-19 variant detected in Southern Africa. Photo CYRIL NDEGEYA/Nation Media Group

 

Rwanda will effective Sunday, November 28, reinstate the mandatory 24-hour quarantine for all arriving passengers as officials move to control potential entry and spread of the new deadly Covid-19 variant detected in Southern Africa.

The health ministry announced Friday that the government would soon issue additional measures in a bid “to limit the spread of the new variant and protect gains made so far in managing the Covid-19 pandemic and reopening the economy.”

“The health ministry is reinstating the obligatory 24-hour quarantine in designated hotels at own expense for all persons arriving into Rwanda effective Sunday, November 28 , 2021 at noon,” reads the statement in part. It further calls on members of the public, including vaccinated people to strictly observe Covid-19 preventive measures.

Months of the Covid-19 lull that enabled lifting of almost all restrictions on movement, gatherings and near full reopening of economic activities had seen fully vaccinated travellers no longer required to quarantine at hotels on arrival in Rwanda.

A PCR test for all arriving passengers was, however, required.

Arriving and departing passengers at Kigali International airport equally present a negative PCR test taken with 72 hours prior to departure.

With over 3.1 million people fully vaccinated and 5.9 million people jabbed with the first shot as at Friday, November 26, the number of people who got the full doses of Covid-19 vaccine represent 21 percent.

Rwandan government recently extended the mass vaccination campaign to teens under eighteen years in a bid to further accelerate the uptake of the jab.

The country has not detected any case of the new variant to date but officials remain on high alert. The national carrier RwandAir flies to South Africa which is among the countries where the variant was first detected.

Rwanda recorded eight new Covid-19 cases Friday out of 12,065 tests conducted.  More than 115 new cases were confirmed in 84,028 tests taken over the last seven days with the positivity rate remaining below one per cent.  The country recorded only two Covid-19 linked deaths over the past week.

Health minister Daniel Ngamije said existing diagnostic capacity using PCR testing was up to task to detect the new Covid-19 variant, therefore won’t require infrastructure upgrades. - JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE, The EastAfrican

A man takes his COVID-19 vaccine during the UN Day Celebration at Nyakuron Cultural Centre. Photo Simon Deng

 

South Sudan health authorities have embarked on a mandatory COVID-19 testing and vaccination campaign to gauge the level of infections in the country.

“We have challenges with getting the vaccines to everyone because of logistical challenges and because people are busy in their institutions,” says Dr John Rumunu, the country’s acting COVID-19 incident manager. “We want to help people by bringing the service closer to them.”

“The task force resolved to carry out the mass vaccination programme in all public and private institutions; this is to caution all the institutions to know that in the next few months, travelling outside might require a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine certificate.”

So far about 61,000 people, or 0.44% of the country’s 12 million population have been fully vaccinated, according to Dr Sacha Bootsman, COVID-19 incident manager at the World Health Organization (WHO) in South Sudan. Much more needs to be done to encourage people to take the vaccine.

“We are testing less, which means we do not have the actual picture of the pandemic in the country,” says Angelo Guop, manager of the Public Health Emergency Operations Centre. “If you are missing a lot of cases in the community, and you are reporting few cases, then this alone may be the reason why people relax.

“People will be saying we have no cases in South Sudan, but you are not capturing cases. This is where the importance of testing comes in, such that we get the actual picture,” Guop continues.

Guop is optimistic that South Sudan will meet the target of vaccinating 10% of its population by the end of the year because there has been a high demand for vaccines since the Johnson and Johnson vaccine was introduced, most likely because it is a single dose vaccine.  

Forty-two-year-old Lowi James received his vaccination in October. It took him a long time to decide to get the jab because he was worried about the health implications. After observing that his colleagues who took the jab earlier were in good health, he made up his mind to get it too. 

James is among those who welcome the mandatory testing and vaccination because, in his words, it is for the good health of the country.

“Imagine everybody is sick from COVID-19. Who will work in the offices and hospitals? The workforce in the country will be affected and activities will be halted. It is, therefore, important to hold a mass vaccination to ensure public safety,” says James. 

Zabib Musa is a women's rights activist working with the Islamic Development and Relief Agency. She received her full doses of AstraZeneca vaccine in July because her work involves a lot of travel both inside and outside the country. She also wanted to protect her family from getting infected through her. 

Musa disagrees with the government’s decision on mandatory testing and vaccination because she believes South Sudanese will become resistant, to a level that they feel taking the vaccination is a stigma in itself 

“People still have the myth that COVID-19 is cough and just the normal flu. They don’t look at it as something big, so mandatory testing and vaccination will be a challenge, and this is worst with the community outside Juba,” says Musa. 

“Before making it mandatory, the government should support awareness among communities on the testing and vaccination to promote uptake, build political support and community preparedness to improve equity and the access to the COVID-19 services in South Sudan.”

She says that’s when more people will go for the vaccines. 

Musa also also feels that if the people received daily detailed reports on COVID-19 cases, it would show the seriousness of the virus and people would be inspired to willingly go for the vaccine. - Winnie Cirino, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance

A Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF, Doctors without Borders) nurse administers a malaria injection to treat a young patient in a Juba hospital, South Sudan, on December 26, 2013. PHOTO MSF - KIM CLAUSEN via AFP

 

More than 4,000 children diagnosed with malaria have been admitted in hospital while more than 25,000 were treated on outpatient basis this year in Aweil Town, northern Bahr-el-Ghazal, medical charity Doctors Without Borders has said.

“These figures are higher than in 2020 or 2019. The region's local health facilities rely on international support for antimalarial medications and tests, and these were in short supply during the peak malaria season. Some health facilities lost external support entirely and are no longer functioning,” Aminu Lawal, Medicine Sans Frontiers (MSF) medical activity manager, said in a press release seen by The EastAfrican on Thursday.

She added that the area has experienced massive spikes in the number of hospital admissions this rainy season.

“We had almost 300 people in our section of the hospital, which normally has 150 beds. Most of them suffer from malaria. And honestly, we are running out of places to put them.

“Even though we have built new malaria tents to increase capacity, it is still not enough. Some have to sleep in hallways because there is just no room anywhere else. Our medical staff, especially nurses, are overstretched,” Ms Lawal said.

She said the spike in patient admissions has resulted in critical shortages of blood for transfusions at Aweil Hospital.

“Patients with severe malaria often develop anaemia, and safe adequately stocked blood banks are therefore a necessity. Teams at the hospital must administer hundreds of blood transfusions per month during the rainy season, but blood supplies are often difficult to come by in South Sudan. Blood is typically only donated by a patient's relatives.

“Blood for transfusions is critically missing. One of the problems is that families rarely own phones and we can’t reach out to relatives when blood donation is needed. This is what truly leaves us incapable of treating many severe cases of malaria, sometimes with fatal consequences,” Ms Lawal added. - DAVID MAYEN, The EastAfrican

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