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The Rwandan capital Kigali and eight other districts across the country are sent back into lockdown to curb surging coronavirus cases and deaths.

Citizens are urged to significantly reduce social interactions and limit movements only to essential services until 26th July.

Both public and private offices, except for those providing key services, were ordered closed.

Other measures due to come into force include a ban on outdoor sport and recreational activities, while schools will be closed and the number of people attending funerals is capped at 15.

International arrivals and tourism will however continue.

A dusk to dawn curfew introduced in June across the country remains in force.

Rwanda has up until now avoided the worst of the pandemic by enforcing some of the strictest containment measures on the continent and implementing a rigorous regime of testing and contact tracing.

But in recent weeks, cases have skyrocketed as the East African nation battles more virulent variants of the virus, including delta.

Hospitals have been overwhelmed, with a critical shortage of beds and desperately needed medicines.

The country of 13 million people has registered nearly 51,000 cases of Covid-19 of which 607 have been fatal.

But like other countries on the continent, vaccine uptake has been slow due in part to a lack of doses and public apathy.

A nationwide campaign aimed at vaccinating 60 percent of the population by next year has so far reached just 401,160 people, according to latest government statistics. - AFP/Africanews

A health worker prepares to administer the Sinovac Biotech Ltd. Covid-19 vaccine on a passenger at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Cengkareng, Indonesia, on Friday, July 9, 2021. The Covid-19 crisis has forced dozens of carriers and other aviation businesses to restructure or seek bankruptcy protection. Photo Dimas Ardian/Bloomberg 

 

(Bloomberg) -- Tanzania’s semi-autonomous Zanzibar archipelago begun vaccinations against the coronavirus, leading the way in a nation that downplayed the extent of the pandemic for more than a year.

Health authorities in the Indian Ocean islands started administering Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s shots on front-line workers last week, Zanzibar’s Health Ministry Permanent Secretary Omar Shajak said, without disclosing the number of doses imported from the Chinese company. They plan to give a second dose after two weeks.

“The Sinovac vaccines were originally meant to be administered to people who wanted to attend the annual Hajj pilgrimage,” Shajak said. “After Saudi Arabia prohibited foreign visitors due to the coronavirus outbreak, we decided to give those vaccines to our front-line workers.”

With Tanzania now inoculating people, Eritrea and Burundi remain the only African countries yet to start vaccinating against the deadly virus. The holdouts, due to reasons from denial of the severity of the disease to logistical challenges and hesitancy, are causing concern that they could become breeding ground for new Covid-19 variants and stifle global efforts to end the pandemic.

Africa has reported almost 6 million cases and fully vaccinated less than 1.2% of its population, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Zanzibar aims to inoculate 1.4 million of its 1.6 million people -- including children as young as 10 years -- as part of a plan to reboot its tourism-dependent economy. The wider population will get shots once vials procured by Tanzania’s central government through the Covax vaccine-sharing program arrive, Shajak said.

Tanzania, with approximately 61 million people, halted publishing infection and death rates for more than a year on directives from former President John Magufuli. His successor, Samia Hassan, resumed releasing partial data -- 408 cases were reported over the weekend.

President Hassan’s administration submitted a request for vaccines to the Covax facility last month, and asked the International Monetary Fund for $571 million to help the economy recover from the pandemic. - Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala, Bloomberg News

The Delta variant has been detected in at least 98 countries around the world and is quickly becoming the dominant strain in many countries. Photo Nation Media Group

 

The latest diagnostics and symptoms manifested in Covid-19 patients in Rwanda confirm the presence of Delta Variant in the country, an official has said.  

Dr Daniel Ngamije, Rwanda's Minister of Health, said the current virus spreads faster, is deadlier and has symptoms different from what was known before. 

“Our assessment shows that the Delta Variant is present in Rwanda. From discussions with frontline doctors and patients, severity of the disease, new symptoms such as headache, fatigue and breathing complications, it is obvious that Delta Variant is present,” Dr Ngamije said in an interview with the national broadcaster on Thursday.

“It used to take at least two months for Rwanda to reach such a big number of infections. For this wave, it took just four weeks to peak; another characteristic of the Delta variant.”

The minister had previously announced that Rwanda was conducting a survey to identify the various variants of the coronavirus in the country.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of July 3, the Delta Variant has been detected in at least 98 countries around the world and is quickly becoming the dominant strain in many countries. Rwanda’s neighbours, Kenya and Uganda, have already confirmed the presence of the variant in the countries.

On July 7, Rwanda recorded 16 deaths, the highest number recorded since the first Covid-19 case in March 2020. The number brought the total death toll to 507. The current positivity rate stands at 9.6 percent, with the country having 45,039 confirmed Covid-19 cases, 18,000 of which were recorded in the last five weeks.

Slightly over four percent of the 12.6 million population have received at least the first dose of Covid-19 vaccine.

Minister Ngamije emphasised that while the government works to secure more vaccine doses, the public should comply with current guidelines in place to minimise risk of infection. - Ange Iliza, The EastAfrican

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