Porous borders trigger spread of covid-19 in three districts

Monday June 8 2020

border

People living in border districts have been accused of sneaking into the country using unofficial crossing points to avoid mandatory quarantine as a measure to contain spread of coronavirus. Photo | Cyril Ndegeya  

JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
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Use of unofficial routes has been singled out as the main cause of covid-19 spread in three border districts.

It was understood that majority of Rwandans returning home from Democratic Republic of Congo use unofficial crossing points to avoid mandatory quarantine.

Rwanda Today established that until last week, authorities in Rusizi, Rubavu and Burera districts were struggling to trace people believed to have crossed from neighboring countries and joined their families without passing through quarantine.

In Rusizi district, more than 100 people have been picked up from their homes since May 28, and taken to TTC Mwururu and G.S Gihundwe quarantine centres.

Locals told Rwanda Today that the majority of the affected people are drivers and traders who regularly travel to Bukavu town in Democratic Republic of Congo, but were not subjected to isolation at the three designated hotels in Kamembe town.

In Rubavu district, it was reported that operations across the five sectors sharing borders with the DR Congo led to arrest of more than 62 people for avoiding quarantine centres.

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“Every returning resident has been put in the quarantine and that include a number of people reported by the community for returning to their families without reporting themselves,” said Francine Uwineza, director of health at Rubavu District, adding that some are suspected to have used unofficial border routes.

Illicit trade

Like in Rubavu, locals in border districts expressed concerns over increased use of porous border points by people, involved in illicit trade.

The cases are said to have risen with the recent government directive compelling all incoming people to foot their bills quarantine facilities. Cost structure shows that available accommodation including bed and meals range between Rwf12,000 and Rwf55,000.

“People have no information yet on how much is charged when put in the quarantine, but there is rumours that relatives who return are scared of using official entry routes,” narrated a resident of Kinyababa in Burera.

However, local officials do not openly link the cases to the costs associated with being quarantined. Authorities said, however, that surveillance has been tightened at suspected porous border points.

“We have entered into contract with the reserve force to enhance surveillance at all the seven suspected porous routes, and they are helped by daily and night patrols by our residents.

We are also using the community health workers to help us detect members of their communities who may return without following the quarantine measures,” said Faustin Kayitsinga, executive secretary of Butaro Sector.

Mr Kayitsinga said many registered attempts to cross illegally were by Rwandans who were trapped in neighbouring countries after the lockdown was imposed in late March, while other had stayed there for more than six months.

The country shares porous borders with Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, which are also battling the coronavirus pandemic.

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