WHO Rwanda drivers - A look and feel from the field amid the COVID-19 wave

News and Press Release
Originally published
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02 July 2021

Kigali, 30 June 2021 - Since mid-June, Rwanda has been experiencing a spike in the number of new COVID-19 confirmed cases each day. To support the country in facing the new wave, UN Agencies under the One UN Rwanda commonly agreed to commit further human and financial resources to the country’s COVID-19 response.

Dr. Ndoungou Salla Ba, WR ai. Rwanda, echoed the pledge to strengthen the support given to the government of Rwanda. “The Government of Rwanda has been fighting a good fight, this surge in COVID-19 case is not a sign of defeat but a reminder that we are in this together and that now is not the time for complacency. WHO Rwanda is ready to strengthen its support.”

In addition to the emergency team already deployed in all pillars of the National COVID-19 Joint Task Force, WHO Rwanda assigned four vehicles and drivers this week. The additional support is meant to enable the mobile laboratory teams to collect an average of 800 samples for COVID-19 testing on daily basis from remote areas around the country.

Mr. Lucas Lweupe has worked at WHO Rwanda for four years, he is one of the drivers assigned to support in the COVID-19 response. Since 25 June, a typical day for Mr. Lweupe starts at 8AM, time at which he checks in at the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) commonly called Command Post (CP). Once there, Mr. Lweupe and his colleagues from WHO Rwanda are each allocated two teams of two lab technicians and two data collections officers. By 8:30AM Mr. Lweupe has received his routing for the day and is ready for departure with four passengers, 200 COVID-19 test kits and enough refreshments for everyone in the car.

Each day, there are four testing sites on the agenda, this represents an average of 150 kilometers. The distance between the CP and each site is what determines the trajectory to be taken by the drivers. It usually takes 15-20 minutes to reach the first site. By the time the team arrives, local authorities have chosen a spot to setup and informed habitants of the testing about to take place. To fast-track the setup, Mr. Lweupe does not hesitate to roll up his sleeves and help carry tables and disinfect surfaces. Sometimes he even has to take up the security role to disperse crowds and make sure people respect physical distancing.

“When people see us at first they are hesitant. They watch us get out of the car from afar then as we get the equipment out, curiosity wins them over. By the time we are done setting up and their local authorities have been tested first the situation is quickly reversed. Everyone wants to get tested and we now have to explain that we had a limited number of kits and that we will come back.”

By 10 AM, the first team has kicked off the testing, Mr. Lweupe can drive the second team to their site and repeat the same exercise. When everyone is all settled in at their first site, Mr. Lweupe switches to catering mode. Lunch is brought around 12:30 PM after which everyone is allowed a few minutes to rest before the morning exercise is repeated for both teams on two new testing sites.

By 4-5PM, it is wrap up time, Mr. Lweupe drives back to pick up the team site by site and makes sure nor staff or nor equipment is left behind. Once everyone is returned safely to CP, then Mr. Lweupe can call it a day and prepare for the next one.