EDITORIAL: With Covid-19, livelihoods go with safety

Sunday August 30 2020

Kigali

An officer walks between people standing in white circles to adhere to social distancing to curb the spread of the coronavirus. PHOTO | FILE 

RWANDA TODAY
By RWANDA TODAY
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On Tuesday this week the country recorded the highest number of Covid-19 cases: 231 – and this followed successive days of rising numbers.

Come Wednesday, the Cabinet decided against a total lockdown but restricted movements to between 5am-7pm. The decision against total lockdown is a relief for business owners especially in the hospitality industry.

However, businesses in the hospitality industry will continue to struggle as selling of alcohol is restricted in restaurants and hotels.

Many had started adjusting and had begun serving their domestic and foreign clients at least until 9pm when they had to close, but this window has now closed. Many people will end up avoiding hotels and restaurants and will just go straight home from work to avoid the risk of violating the curfew.

As the government enforces these new measures, there is a need for a support system to the sectors that are most affected, beyond what is in place. A sector assessment of the effectiveness of government interventions to support recovery of businesses that has been rolled out so far would be prudent at this point.

The economic recovery fund was a prudent stimulus package for businesses, but so far uptake suggests a need for adjustment to the realities of its intended beneficiaries.

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For example, many hotels that applied for it through the respective banks are yet to be approved, many could not meet the stringent criteria.

Rwanda has already won plaudits the world over as one of the few countries that have handled the Covid-19 pandemic responsibly, in terms of controlling the spread, testing, management and treatment of those infected, despite budget constraints.

The fact that Covid-19 cases keep growing now points to two factors. First, Rwanda's testing capability has grown to cover a wider net of people tested. Secondly, it shows that many people are not individually abiding by the set measures meant to control the spread of the virus, for example, wearing masks or avoiding crowded places.

This is where efforts need to be doubled as opposed to issuing a lockdown. Safety must always come first.

But for many who are struggling to feed their families under the current circumstances, obeying the Ministry of Health safety guidelines especially respecting curfew hours is a tall order.

All the measures the government is taking to control the spread of Covid-19 are well intentioned, and are premised on saving lives, but they should be enforced with securing people's economic lives in mind, and making sure that the economy will still be standing after this has passed.

Perhaps more importantly, focus has to be on securing as many jobs as possible. As many Rwandans continue to feel the pinch due to the prolonged economic recovery, it is important that saving lives is complemented by measures that seek to protect, create jobs and guard livelihoods.

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