2020: The year of the pandemic

Leave a comment / By: manifel / 02 January, 2021 08:28:51AM
2020: The year of the pandemic

It was January 2020 when talk of the coronavirus started to get our attention, being reported in the Central Chinese city of Wuhan at that time.

Being many miles away, the most obvious thing for us Rwandans at that point in time was to sympathize with the people of Wuhan.  

It was not quite realistic to fear for our lives or start putting in place preventive measures, because we did not fairly anticipate that it was going to reach our own territory. 

However, we kept following the news as events unfolded in China.  

Soon, scientists confirmed human transmission of the virus, and before long, Wuhan was put under quarantine – all happening in the month of January.

By the end of the month, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared a Global Health Emergency. 

At this point, positive cases were being reported in various countries across of the world.

In early February, China’s Covid-19 deaths were reported to be 908, and these numbers exceeded those of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a crisis that had menaced the Asian country about 16 years ago.

The big news came on March 11: WHO declared Covid-19 to be a Pandemic. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of WHO, said at a briefing in Geneva the agency was “deeply concerned by the alarming levels of spread and severity” of the outbreak.

At this time, some African countries had already registered cases, and it looked more realistic that Rwanda might join the list. And yes, on March 14, the Ministry of Health announced that the country had registered the first case.

According to the Ministry, the patient was an Indian citizen who had arrived from Mumbai, India, on March 8.

This was only the second case in East Africa, after Kenya had recorded the first case a day ago. 

As you would expect, people were plunged into panic mode. Fake news, where among other stories that went to and fro was one claimed that the identity of the patient had been known.

Various social media platforms were flooded with messages warning people not to approach particular places within the city of Kigali, since the patient in question had been there recently. 

On another side of the coin, some people also saw a business opportunity: selling masks. After about two days of the announcement of the positive case, some streets had vendors selling masks, funny enough, some were dust masks, or even fumigation masks; but there wasn’t a lot that the naïve buyers knew about the real mask to go for. 

Cases of the virus continued to be identified in Rwanda in the following days, and by March 22, the government decided to impose a nation-wide lockdown, a rather unprecedented and unbelievable development for every Rwandan.

It was initially expected to go on for only two weeks, but it was extended to last for almost a month and a half, plunging families into the difficulty of having to eat while not working. 

The government stepped in to provide food to the most vulnerable, churches made some outreaches for the same cause, among other organisations and individuals.

In May, the government partially lifted the lockdown, and we have never gone back into a total lockdown. 

However, the economic and social devastation due to impact of the virus has gone on ever since, and for many, 2020 may be looked at as a year in which “doing well has meant simply muddling through.”

By December 21, as the year was nearing its end, Rwanda had registered about 7,293 confirmed cases of the virus, and of these 6,091 had recovered, and 63 had died.

Globally, over 76 million cases had been registered, and about 1.6 million people had lost their lives. And this is coupled with massive economic losses incurred almost everywhere.

According to the World Bank (WB), over the past 12 months, the pandemic has harmed the poor and vulnerable the most, and it is threatening to push millions more into poverty.

“This year, after decades of steady progress in reducing the number of people living on less than $1.90/day, COVID-19 will usher in the first reversal in the fight against extreme poverty in a generation,” reads a statement from one of WB’s platforms. 

That is just part of what the situation has plunged the world into. And more could be written concerning these difficult times. What is clear, though is that these dark moments, can assist us to learn a number of important lessons.

Among the lessons, Dr. Menelas Nkeshimana, one of the medics who have been in Rwanda’s task force against Covid-19 says, "We should learn that no epidemic is just local (limited to one place of the world."

“We all have to think "global,” and thus mind, plan and budget for our own countries and for our neighbours’ too,” he said.

Nkeshimana also echoed the need for humanitarian attitude in these times,

“There are people around us in the community who have suffered and are still suffering more than we can understand. Let’s open our eyes in our neighbourhoods, reach out to them as they attempt to survive and recover. That's the true meaning of being 'Umunyarwanda'" he said.

Among other lessons, it is argued that nations need to invest more in their healthcare systems to be more in a position to deal with such sudden happenings as Covid-19; and that societies need to learn to listen to experts’ advice in relation to situations.

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