Casual labourers are bearing the brunt of the new Covid-19 variant, omicron, as the nature of their work exposes them to infections.
As families try to minimize movements and stay at home to avoid catching the virus, domestic workers become the frontline workers of these homes, being the ones sent out to buy supplies from shops and markets and also get into contact with those in isolation at home.
Even when any member of the family contracts the virus, chances of domestic workers contracting it are high because of the nature of their work in homes.
Cleaners and security guards in public buildings whose work puts them into contact with people from different places has exposed many to the virus, leading to infections of many of these people Many domestic workers have ended up contracting the virus especially in the past two months, a situation that led to them infecting other people largely because many could not test as frequently as required because they can’t afford testing charges.
Public health facilities offer free Covid-19 testing for low income earners who cannot afford the Rwf5000 testing cost, however these only test those who have already started showing signs of sickness, yet by that time they have infected many others.
Afrodis Mpawenimana, a domestic worker in Kanombe, asked for a few days off from his employers to go and enjoy the new year’s celebration with his family in Karongi, little did he know that he had contracted the virus.
It was until he was tested and results came out positive during the mandatory testing of people returning from up country before entering Nyabugogo bus terminal.
“I could not have known that I had Covid-19, all the signs started showing after testing, I am now quarantining in my small room, taking medication for the cough and flue” “I am lucky because my employers are taking care of me and paying for all my medication, other domestic workers I know who contracted the virus have not been that lucky, some had their bosses send them back to the village upon learning they have corona” said Ms Mpawenimana.
Francois Ndagijimana, a garbage collector who lives in Kinyinya cannot trace where he could have contracted the virus, but he knows he got it from one of the homes he collects garbage from.
It was until he started getting symptoms that he went to a health facility for a test that he confirmed it was Covid-19 he was suffering from.
“Many people I know in my line of work who were even vaccinated have contracted the virus, I had never tested so I didn’t know if I had it until I started getting symptoms, I took some days off and got treatment, I have now healed and gone back to work, I put on a mask all the time but I think at this rate its no guarantee” he shared.
The move to conduct free mandatory tests for people returning from holidays, as well as free testing for those that can’t afford testing costs has helped people doing low paying jobs to know their status so they can try to protect others.
As Omicron variant cases continues to surge in different parts of the country, the government of Rwanda reduced the time people are supposed to wait before getting a booster jab from six to three months.
Government has also started vaccinating 12 year olds as it races against time to protect all citizens; by the end of 2021 Rwanda had vaccinated 40 percent of its population hitting the World Health Organisation target.