A. Nature and description of emergency COVID-19 measures
- Statement of the office of the Prime Minister
Before the first Covid-19 situation in Rwanda, the prime minister announced certain preventive measures on 6 March 2020 such as unnecessary movements and regular washing of hands.
- Office of the prime minister announced on enhanced COVID-19 measures
On 21 March 2020, the prime minister announced a two-week national lockdown for further precautionary measures to curb the spread of Covid-19 which was to start from 22 March 2020. The measures were aimed at restricting unwarranted movement except for essential services(food, banking, healthcare and persons carrying out such services), ensuring the use of electronic banking, ensuring that all workers in all public and private sectors work from home except for those rendering essential service, closure of borders excluding food and cargo and citizens and legal residents returning subject to a 14-day quarantine, food providers and cafes were allowed to only provide take away service, interdistrict travelling was restricted except for essential services(medical and food), closure of all shops except for those selling essential products(food and drugs), restriction of motors from carrying passengers, while public transport within cities was only required to function when movements were essential with 1-metre distance from passengers. Government and security officials were vested with the responsibility to ensure compliance with these measures.
- Office of the prime minister cabinet communiqué 1 April 2020
The cabinet with the president reviewed existing measures which were to continue. However, schools were encouraged to continue learning with technology while they remained closed. Farmers were to continue activities in accordance with the health guidelines. There were discussions on what measures to adopt to reduce the spread of the virus and strategies to reduce the effect of Covid-19 on vulnerable groups. There were discussions by the Minister of ICT and Innovation about how technology was used to tackle Covid-19 issues and the availability of electronic resources for education, the Minister of Justice also discussed on how Kwibuka 26 was to be recognized in the context of Covid-19. These measures were to be evaluated after two weeks.
- Office of the prime minister statement on cabinet resolutions 17 April 2020
All existing measures continued without additional measures or easing of any.
- Office of the prime minister statement on cabinet resolutions of 30 April 2020
The president with the cabinet evaluated existing measures and came up with new measures and also eased some other measures to further curb the spread of covid-19. These measures were to be effective from 4 May 2020 and evaluated after 15 days. Schools, bars, places of worship, gyms and recreational centres, inter-province transportation, meetings in public places and borders remained closed. While mass screening and testing for Covid-19 was to continue.
Preventive measures such as the mandatory putting on a mask in the public were introduced. Movements were restricted from 8 pm to 5 am except when permitted. Some services were allowed to resume operation with certain restrictions. Resumption of Markets not exceeding 50% of registered traders, manufacturing and construction with only essential workers, hotels with 7 pm closing time, public and private transport were allowed within the same province, funeral gatherings of not more than 30 persons, personal sporting was allowed in open space while sporting facilities were to remain closed, businesses were to operate with only essential workers while others were to work from home and social distance were to be maintained in buses with only passengers putting on mask allowed into buses. These services were required to adhere to health guidelines. The Socio-economic Recovery Plan was also approved to assist economic operations COVID-19 disrupted.
- Office of the prime minister statement on Cabinet resolutions of 18 May 2020
Cabinet evaluated existing measures. While existing measures were to continue strictly, certain measures were eased and allowed to operate within a certain date. These measures were to be assessed after 15 days. Putting on of mask, screening and testing and observance of health guidelines (such as washing of hands, mask-wearing and social distancing) by all resumed services, acceptance of digital payment, businesses with only essential workers, personal sporting in open space excluding gyms, funeral gatherings of not more than 30, marriage ceremonies of not more than 15 persons excluding church gatherings and receptions while bans on gatherings in public and homes were to continue.
The movement was eased and restricted from 9 pm to 5 am, both public and private transportation were to continue within the same province however transport between different provinces and city of Kigali were to remain closed and only resume on 1 June 2020, quarantine was strictly made compulsory for returning Rwandans and legal residents according to existing health guidelines and these returnees were to bear the cost. Bars, place of worship remained closed while schools were to remain closed till September 2020, restriction of motors from carrying passengers excluding the carriage of goods and delivery continued. However, moto services were allowed to resume on 1 June 2020.
- Office of the prime minister statement on cabinet decisions of 2 June 2020
Cabinet evaluated existing measures and continued with these measures while certain measures were eased with restrictions. These measures were subject to evaluation after 15days. Acceptance of digital form of payments, putting on of mask, screening and testing and observance of health guidelines, funeral gatherings of not more than 30, civil marriage ceremonies of not more than 15 persons, movement restrictions from 9 pm to 5 am, businesses with only essential workers and quarantine for returning Rwandans and legal residents according to existing health guidelines with them bearing the cost was to continue while schools were to remain closed till 20 September 2020.
Personal sports outside were permitted excluding gyms in accordance with the guidelines presented by the Minister of Sports, carriage of passengers in public and private transport between provinces were allowed to resume excluding the district of Rusizi and Rubavu and public transports were closed in these districts, transport of goods and cargo were to continue with persons not exceeding two on board and Place of worship, gatherings and bars remained closed.
- Office of the prime minister statement on cabinet decisions of 16 June 2020
Existing measures were reviewed and approved by the cabinet. Existing measures were to continue while certain were eased. The measures eased include: Domestic and international tourism for visitors travelling with charter flights were to resume while the Rwanda Development Board was to disseminate the guideline, Hotels were to continue with their activities and could also participate in promoting domestic tourism and render conference services which were to be in accordance with the guideline on health, while places of worship remained closed, investments in COVID-19 preventive measures were encouraged in order to prepare for reopening upon epidemiological assessment.
Religious ceremonies for burials and marriage were also allowed to resume with persons not exceeding 30. However, the Ministry of Local Government was to share detailed guidelines for marriage ceremonies.
- Office of the prime minister statement on cabinet decisions of 30 June 2020.
The cabinet approved the resolution of 16 June 2020 and evaluated the existing measures. Existing measures were to continue while certain measures were eased. New changes include: Public and private transportation excluding goods and cargos remained banned in Rusizi district, mottos were also not allowed to carry passengers in Russizi and zones under lockdown in the city of Kigali, movements in zones under lockdown in Rusivi district and city of Kigali were banned. In Rubavu district, transportation was permitted to resume. The Guidelines for Domestic and international tourism was released by the Rwanda Development board.
- Office of the prime minister statement on cabinet decisions of 15 July 2020
The cabinet approved resolution of 30 June 2020 and evaluated the existing measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. Existing measures continued while the new changes allowed movements in Rusizi district excluding travelling to and from the district apart from goods and cargo. Worship places were allowed to resume as approved by local authorities. In this regard, the Ministry of Local Government was to release detailed guidelines. The cabinet further approved the draft law approving the ratification of the grant financing agreement between Rwanda and Agence francaise de Development (AFD) for the national COVID-19 response programme signed in Kigali on 30 June 2020.
- Office of the prime minister statement on cabinet decisions on 29 July 2020
The cabinet approved resolution of 15 July 2020 and reiterated the need for an increase in vigilance while executing COVID-19 preventive measures and also called on the public to limit irrelevant movements including visiting friends and families. Existing measures were to continue however, a few new changes are noted. The reopening of the Kanombe international airport was allowed and attendance at all-night vigils was permitted but not allowed to be more than 15 people at any one time.
- Office of the prime minister statement on cabinet decisions of 14 August 2020
The cabinet approved resolution of 29 July 2020 and evaluated existing measures. Existing measures were to continue however, there are a few noted changes. These include: Businesses were to continue with essential workers not exceeding 50% others were to continue working from home, event organisers which include conferences and meetings were to mandatorily adhere to COVID-19 preventive measures in this regard, detailed guideline was to be disseminated by the Rwanda Development Board. Places of worship were permitted to operate and were to adhere to COVID-19 measures, passengers who were arriving at the Kigali international airport were required to show a negative result of COVID-19PCR test done within 120hours before departing and were mandated to strictly adhere to health guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health.
The cabinet further approved the law approving the ratification of loan agreement between the Republic of Rwanda and African Development Fund for Rwanda (ADF) for Rwanda COVID-19 crisis response signed in Kigali on 10 August 2020.
- Office of the prime minister cabinet communique
On 26 August 2020, the president with the cabinet discussed the status of COVID-19 in Rwanda, the cabinet noted the increase in COVID-19 cases and related deaths particularly in the city of Kigali and mandated strict adherence to COVID regulations. Some existing measures were to continue while there were certain changes. These changes include: Movement restrictions from 7 pm-5 am, banning of public transport between Kigali and other districts while private transportation was to continue in accordance with health guidelines. Public offices with essential staffs working were not to exceed 30% while for private, 50% others were to continue working from home and the cabinet was briefed on the impact of COVID-19 on employment.
- Office of the prime minister cabinet communique
On 10 September 2020, the cabinet reviewed existing measures which were to continue with a few additional measures. These measures were to be evaluated after 15 days. Citizens were urged to continue adhering to the health guidelines which among others includes, washing of hands, sanitizing, putting on of face mask and distancing. The additional measures include: every tourist visiting the national park was to test negative for COVID-19 at own cost, private transportation within Rusivi and other districts were allowed to start and were to comply with health guidelines and all gatherings were to continue in accordance with health guidelines while for these gatherings, COVID-19 negative test was to be done from individual pocket expenses and organisation of important events were subject to the approval of the local government and the RBD. Movements were restricted from 10 pm to 5 am. The cabinet also approved resolution of 26 August 2020.
- Office of the prime minister cabinet communique
On 25 September 2020, Existing measures were reviewed and were to continue while a few additional measures were adopted. These measures include: the reopening of schools, resumption of public transport between Kigali and other provinces, resumption of public transport in Rusivi, COVID-19 test were no longer strictly required for social gatherings less than 30 persons, while for attendees in meetings and conferences, COVID-19 test was no longer required but organisers were to adhere to health guidelines and not exceed 30percent of venue capacity. Bicycle transportation were to resume in places that they are permitted to operate.
- Coronavirus disease 2019 national preparedness and response Plan
The government of Rwanda through the Ministry of Health developed this six months plan (March-August) which was aimed at preparing Rwanda for preventing, detecting and responding efficiently to any future COVID-19 outbreak. This plan was to serve as a reference document for responding to the impact of COVID-19.
- Standard operating procedures for preparedness and response to coronavirus disease
This guideline provides for a clear direction to enable various stakeholders in preventing, detecting and responding to COVID-19 epidemic in an orderly manner and without delay. This guideline also describes the approach for data and information management and reporting and its provisions are in line with the National Preparedness and Response Plan.
- Covid-19 clinical management guideline
The Clinical Management Guideline serves as the second edition to the first edition of COVID-19 treatment guideline which was approved on 20 March 2020. The guideline was developed by the Ministry of Health for clinicians at treatment centres and site managers of COVID-19 isolation and treatment centres. It aims to serve as the bedrock for improved supportive management of contacts and supportive management and care of COVID-19 cases that are confirmed.
- Guidelines for the mining sector
The Rwanda Mines, Petroleum and Gas Board (RMB) developed this guideline for the mining sector to curb the spread of COVID-19. This guideline provides for adequate tunnel ventilation, de-densification, screening and testing systems among others.
- The Ministry of Health issued instructions for COVID-19 screening at point of entry on 3 March 2020. These instructions were to serve as precautionary steps to protect all Rwandan residents and visitors. All persons arriving in Rwanda were subject to COVID-19 screening.
- In April 2020, the Ministry of Education created a Response Plan to the COVID-19 Outbreak. This plan is in line with Rwanda’s National Preparedness and response plan to COVID-19 but focuses on the education in Rwanda. The plan aims among others to strengthen national capacities for planning, implementation, and monitoring of educational activities throughout the existence of COVID-19. Distant learning programmes via Radio, Audio-visual lessons through television broadcasting and E-learning were to be initiated by the government of Rwanda as part of the response plan to COVID-19.
- In March 2020, the Ministry of Education issued a statement encouraging every university and higher institutions to ensure the promotion of awareness on precautionary measures for preventing a possible coronavirus outbreak in Rwanda.
- The Minister for Education announced the reopening of Rwandan universities and higher education institutions by the middle of October 2020.
- On 14 July 2020, the Ministry of Local Government announced a 15-day lockdown for two cells of Nyamagabe District in Southern province and four cells of Nyamasheke district in Western province. On 10 August 2020, there was a lifting of COVID-19 lockdown by the Ministry of Local Government in three out of the six villages that were under lockdown from 25 June 2020.
- All airports were to open on 1 August 2020 and passengers were required as per the Ministry of Infrastructure’s public notice to show proof of COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction test (PCR) taken within 72 hours of arrival. Passengers were also required to take a second mandatory test within 24hours.
- The Rwanda Convention Bureau (RCB) issued a COVID-19 health checklist for professional conference organisers(PCOs) and venue facilities. This guideline is implemented together with the assistance of the Rwanda Development Board Tourism Department and the Rwanda Convention Bureau.
- In June 2020, the Ministry of Sports issued instructions that allowed certain mini-sports carry out activities (outside non-contact sports). These instructions were to strictly comply with healthy safety such as putting on of face mask, washing of hands, using of hand sanitizers and keeping social distance. On 8 July 2020, there were updated instruction on the resumption of other sporting activities which were to comply with the health and safety instructions provided. These sport activities were to resume from 13 July 2020. However, public sporting facilities were to remain closed excluding the Amahoro stadium which was allowed to operate from 6am- 7pm for personal outside exercises, sport competitions were not permitted and sporting activities concerned were to share with mini-sports their locations and training calendars to ensure monitoring.
B. Democracy-related issues arising from COVID-19 responses of state
According to the 2020 African election calendar, there were no planned elections in Rwanda in 2020.
The Rwandan government provided as part of their social protective plan free food to vulnerable families who were affected by the lockdown measures instituted to curb the spread of COVID-19 within the Capital City, Kigali. The report reveals that efforts were made by all Cabinet Members, Permanent Secretaries, Heads of Public Institutions, and other senior officials to forfeit their April salary as part of their contribution in the fight against COVID-19.
The parliament was a part of the senior members that agreed to forfeit their April 2020 salary as part of their contributions in the fight against COVID-19.
- Judiciary (role of courts; decided cases related to COVID-19)
Courts addressed cases on issues of misconduct by officers enforcing COVID-19 rules and also punished people for violations of COVID-19 regulations in public at the scene of the alleged crime. On 4 April 2020, the Rwandan Defence Force, Military Prosecution Department launched an investigation into allegations by the public of criminal misconduct by some soldiers against citizens in Nyarutarama, Remera Sector, Gasabo District while enforcing the lockdown. The court heard the matter in public.
- Transparency/ access to information
There were issues of arrest and detention on allegations of breaking COVID regulation as a result of bloggers exposing abuse by law enforcement officers.
- Abuse by law enforcement agents/exacerbation of authoritarian tendencies/power grabs
On March 31, Rwanda National Police (RNP) issued additional warning to the public relating to government regulations for combating the spread of COVID-19. Those violating the regulations were to be treated as those with intentions of getting infected and spreading the virus. However, there were noted abuse of power by the law enforcement agents such as rape and excessive beatings. On 3 April 2020, three women revealed that they were raped by soldiers enforcing the lockdown rules. Also, on 1 August 2020, one Flavien Ngaboyamahina was badly beaten by a police officer for breaking covid 19 regulations. On 4August, he died in hospital.
- Democratic reform
There is no available information on this at the time of preparing this study.
C. Human rights-related issues arising from COVID-19 responses of states
- Right to health (including infrastructure, access to testing)
On a daily basis, the Ministry of Health informs the public on the number of people tested, positive cases recorded, daily recovery and continuous sensitisation on social distancing and hand washing. The government established a national helpline for people who believed or suspected that they might have contracted the virus. The government also included the military and the police in tracing potential covid patients.
In January, medical staff were positioned at the Kigali International Airport and land borders for the screening of passengers for covid 19. In the beginning of March around 2000 Joint Task Force were working on different sector of interventions most especially epidemiology that deals with surveillance, contact tracing, lab testing and case management including psychological support. Handwashing and hand sanitiser were placed outside all public buildings and shopping centres. On the same note, around 2000 members from across sectors structures of these similar nature were established in all the 30 Districts with the Mayors of these districts providing leadership support. Also, Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) were activated at District levels and were reporting daily to the central level. The Government also set up ten treatment centres for COVID 19 cases.
On 19 May, the government with the assistance of UNDP Rwanda, introduced High-tech robots at treatment centres to regulate temperature checks, observe patients and keep medical records of COVID patients. The laboratory reporting system was also digitalized. This was done to strengthen the connection between laboratory results to other actions during the response. An electronic screening questionnaire of all travellers arriving Rwanda was carried out to minimize the rate of infection. As a result of the shortage of ventilators, ventilators were produced to assist critical covid patients. Of the 100 ventilators in Rwanda, 23 were for the treatment of Covid19 at the treatment centres. As part of creating health awareness, the Rwanda National Police (RNP) used drones to disseminate awareness through remote and densely populated neighbourhoods. In order to also reduce the rate of transmission, the surveillance team used a bracelet-enabled tracker as a way of enforcing the travel restrictions placed on travellers who were on quarantine at home. Also because of the shortage of face masks, local companies started producing face masks.
- Right to housing (including homelessness, informal settlements, slums, shacks)
There is no available information on this at the time preparing this study.
- Right to water and sanitation
Prior to the first case of COVID -19, only five percent of the entire population had access to hand-washing facilities with soap and water. In March, before the country registered its first case of COVID 19, the government installed handwashing stations at bus stops, buildings and shopping malls in the Capital, Kigali as part of the measures to prevent the spread of COVID 19.
- Right to food/ nutrition and other socio-economic rights
As part of the government social protective plan, free food were distributed to vulnerable families within the Capital City, Kigali who were affected by the lockdown measures instituted to curb the spread of COVID-19. Economic impact/ impact small business/ employment social security networks On the overall scale, COVID 19 impacted the economy badly. One of such sectors is tourism which contributes about 15% of Rwanda’s GDP. The national growth forecast drastically reduced from +8% to +5.1%, and may go down to +3%, and even lower. In the agriculture sector, there was also a fall in demand and the reduction of international prices of export crops as a result of COVID-19. Schools were affected and were firing their staffs as a result of inadequate finance. In this regard, provisions were made in the government economic recovery plan to provide for the welfare of staffs.
In 2020, the country projected to generate around $88 million from hosting about 147 international conferences under the Meetings, Incentives, Conventions, and Exhibitions (MICE). In March and April 2020, around 20 meetings scheduled for these months were postponed indefinitely. These meetings were expected to generate $8 million which is about 10% of the projected revenue from holding meetings and conventions among others in 2020.
Irrespective of the economic downturn, report reveals that COVID-19 also in a way created opportunities for small businesses to boom particularly businesses dealing with essential services like soap, disinfectants and sanitizers.
As a means of cushioning the economic impact of COVID 19, the Central Bank of Rwanda instituted series of measures. These measures range from the extension of lending facility of around $52 million to commercial banks with liquidity challenges at the central bank rate to lowering reserve requirement ratio from 5% to 4% from 1 April 2020. This was to provide commercial banks more liquidity to help businesses that were affected. In addition, the central bank also permitted banks to restructure pending loans of borrowers facing temporary cash flow challenges as a result of COVID- 19. There were also short-term measures issued by the Rwanda authority to support taxpayers. These measures were realised on 20 March 2020.
- Women (including domestic violence)
After the government announced a nationwide lockdown, incidence of domestic violence were reported to have increased. The most affected are teenage mothers and partly divorced couples. The Executive Director of Legal Aid Rwanda stated that they received hundreds of calls a day from these set of people requesting for help. Before the pandemic struck, Rwanda established the Isange One Stop Centre for survivors of gender-based violence. The centre is operated by the country’s Ministries of Gender and Family Promotion, Health, and Justice as well as the Rwanda National Police. The government also established a police hotline to enable survivors of domestic violence report cases of rape and abuse.
- Children (including education)
As a result of the national lockdown, around 3.6 million students are out of school. Since physical schooling was restricted by the government, radio schooling program was made available by the Ministry of Education to engage students during the school closure from March-September 2020.
- Persons with disabilities
As a result of lack of adequate sign interpreters at various television stations across the country, in April 2020, the National Council of People with Disabilities (NCPD), requested for the use of sign language for television stations across the country in order to ensure that persons with disabilities are also aware of the preventive measures to curb the spread of the virus. Government owned sign language interpreters were provided at state owned television stations excluding private owned television stations. The National Union of Disabilities Organisations also provided food stuff and other basic items to nearly four thousand vulnerable persons living with disability (PLWD) during the lockdown.
- LGBTI persons
There is no available information on this at the time preparing this study.
- Indigenous persons
There is no available information on this at the time preparing this study.
In April 2020, refugees and migrants who were relocated to Rwanda after being held in inhumane condition at detention centres in Libya gathered in their camp to demonstrate against the covid 19 lockdown regulations instituted by the government.
In March the IOM and UNHCR suspended resettlement departures for refugees at the UNHCR office in the Capital, Kigali and also instituted other measures in line with the government measures to curb the spread of the virus. These measures range from the closure of the reception facilities to the suspension of interviews or counselling facilities and the suspension of the movements of refugees departing to resettlement countries. As part of its response plans, the government included refugees in the National and District Response Plans for COVID-19.
- Persons deprived of their liberty (persons in incarceration; police detention)
As part of its measures aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19, in April 2020, the Government of Rwanda temporarily released 1800 people detained at various police stations across the country. These were people that committed minor offences while waiting for their cases to be heard in court. However, they were to appear in court when physical court sitting returns. In May 2020, the Government of Rwanda also released over 3500 prisoners who committed minor crimes. These prisoners were released as a result of their remorseful character. Among those released were 50 women who were imprisoned for abortion.
- Right to life and bodily security (arrests; deaths as a result of lockdown)
There were noted abuse of power by law enforcement agents such as rape and excessive beatings. On April 3, three women from Kangondo II – a poor community in Remera, a neighbourhood within the Capital, Kigali revealed that they were raped by soldiers enforcing the lockdown rules. On 1 August, one Flavien Ngaboyamahina was badly beaten by a police officer for breaking COVID-19 regulations. On 4 August, he died in hospital.
- Freedom of assembly
There are reports of arrest of gatherings for breaking COVID 19 regulations. On 4 April 2020, over 65 people in western Rwanda were arrested were they gathered for a religious prayer which was banned by the government.
- Freedom of movement
The government allowed movement for the purchase of essential goods and services based on its regulations issued by the Prime Minister. During the last two weeks of July 2020, there were incidences of nearly 60,000 people caught moving around for the non-essential purpose. These violators were arrested and punished.
- Freedom of expression/ access to information/ privacy/digital rights
The Rwandan Biomedical Centre’s consistently provides comprehensive information on COVID 19 guidelines, public notices, daily updates on the number of daily positive cases, the number of deaths, tests carried out and the total number of positive cases.
D. Summary (analysis, trends)
Rwanda adopted an approach whereby the prime minister issued a general national COVID-19 lockdown measure which was consistently reviewed. Ministries and sectors, therefore, issued guidelines and measures in accordance with the prime minister’s general COVID-19 measures.