Chapter 1: key developments in the country and regional context
The outbreak of COVID-19 caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS- CoV-2) has been spreading rapidly across the world since December 2019. The spread has been so rapid that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared it a global pandemic1 on March 11, 2020. Three days later, Rwanda confirmed the first case of COVID-19. Containment measures were swiftly implemented thereafter to ensure public health and safety. COVID-19 cases continued to rise, albeit at a slower pace than would have been the case if Rwanda had not instituted stringent lockdown measures. As of 30 June 2020, Rwanda had recorded 1025 cases of which 447 people recovered and 2 deaths. wWHO observed that the ‘doubling time’ of rates of new infections had decreased from 43 days prior to April 14 to just 8 days after that date, and that incidences of community transmission had been initiated in Rwanda, compared to all earlier cases that were imported from overseas visitors.
Rwanda’s COVID-19 containment measures were among the most stringent in Sub-Saharan Africa.3 One week after the first recorded case, a full lockdown was implemented, which was extended two further times in April, to the end of that month. This required people to stay at home unless for emergency reasons and resulted in school closures and bans on public gatherings including places of worship and sports. All commercial passenger flights to and from Rwanda, including flights by the national carrier, were suspended and all public and private transportation severely restricted. Most individual and firm activity, including manufacturing, hospitality and entertainment businesses such as hotels, bars, and restaurants, were closed. For example, 90 percent of businesses in the hospitality sector and tour operators experienced a full suspension of business.