Rwanda had started intense preparedness before the first COVID-19 case was recorded in the country, which is among the reasons why the contact tracing mechanism has been effective, according to Dr Menelas Nkeshimana, officer in charge of Case Management & IPC Sub-cell in Rwanda Joint Taskforce for COVID-19.
Dr. Nkeshimana who is also the head of emergency department at the University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK) said this during a Q&A session held on Sunday, August 2, 2020 via WhatsApp Group – bringing together more than 130 health journalists and media experts from 20 African countries, connected by Christophe Hitayezu – Rwandan journalist & Pandemic media mentor – with the topic of the day being ‘Rwanda’s experience in COVID19 case management.’
“Long before the first COVID-19 case was diagnosed in Rwanda in Mid-March 2020, the preparedness had already started, and all our POINTS OF ENTRY (POEs) were on high level of alertness, and the contact tracing plan was in place. This is one of the reasons why our contact tracing mechanism was very effective.” Explained Dr. Nkeshimana, who was asked how effective is Rwandan contact tracing method.
According to a statement released by Rwanda Development Board (RDB) on May 12, 2020, all hospitality establishments including hotels, restaurants, coffee shops among others would be registering all customers patronizing their premises, in order to strengthen the fight against the Coronavirus pandemic.
Asked about the extent at which such a strategy helps in contact tracing, Dr. Nkeshimana said: “Registration is key, any information that would make easy the work of investigators (disease detectives) is welcomed! Of course, Rwanda did complement that info using other technologies as well.”
Another tactic contributing to the applicability of Contact tracing mechanism is to embrace digital payments because, besides minimizing chances of contracting Coronavirus, it facilitates the tracing of contacts linked to a new patient, according to Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, the Director General of Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC) who made this statement on radio Rwanda in Mid-June 2020.
“If a taxi-moto operator tests positive, we need to trace all those who commuted with them, so if one hasn’t paid using digital payments, they risk their lives because we won’t recognize them in the system.” Dr. Nsanzimana explained with the example.
Scientifically, contact tracing is the process of identifying, assessing, and managing people who have been exposed to a disease to prevent onward transmission. When systematically applied, contact tracing will break the chains of transmission of COVID-19 and is an essential public health tool for controlling the virus.
Speaking to Pressbox amid the occasion, Christophe Hitayezu, Rwandan Journalist and Pandemic Media Mentor at Internews who coordinated the Q&A session said: “As the COVID-19 pandemic has been causing upheavals in all spheres of the World, a joint effort for effective response is highly important. Although the media has been also affected by the pandemic, revolutionary ways of working are supporting to keep healthy information flowing. Hence, social media such as WhatsApp is effective and supporting journalists to report from whenever they are.”
“Rwanda has relatively fewer deaths and active COVID-19 cases than most of African Countries. Today’s Q&A session with a Rwandan frontline medical Doctor, aims at sharing experience of Rwanda on how the country is managing to control COVID-19 cases. It was therefore an opportunity for journalists in the group to ask questions and share best practices in their respective locations,” Hitayezu added.
Since the outbreak of this pandemic in the country by mid-March, Rwanda has recorded 2042 Coronavirus cases including 5 deaths and 1119 recoveries.