Work, safety? The unenviable choice of daily wage earners

Wednesday July 21 2021
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Testimonies from different Covid-19 patients point to pressure from employers to make up for lost revenues as well as the survival of businesses taking priority over observing preventive measures. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA


As the country battles an unprecedented rise in daily coronavirus infections and deaths following the reported presence of highly transmittable Delta variant, low-income families and daily wage earners are increasingly finding themselves exposed and acting as spreaders.

Testimonies from different patients point to pressure to make up for lost revenues as well as the survival of businesses taking priority over observing preventive measures.

The other risks are linked to a lack of relief for the patients who fall under the poor and vulnerable category under home-based care, leaving most to unknowingly spread the virus as they search for a living.

For example, Jean Marie Vianney Kabirigi, a resident of Shyorongi in Rulindo District did not know he had Covid-19 when he checked in at the local health centre to see a dentist.

A Covid-19 test would come out positive, and he was sent to isolate at home. “I really had nothing on me as I’d been released from detention the same week. Yet when you look at the conditions one is subjected to in terms of the diet to take, the drugs and other costs, it is tough to survive for a family without some savings or a salary.

Even chances of recovery are minimal,” said the father of two. “I can’t tell what life will look like in the absence of support of any kind.” Steady rise Mr Kabirigi is one of estimated 15,000 Covid-19 patients under home-based care across the country.


This number has been on steady rise after the positivity rate doubled to 11.5 per cent over the recent weeks, putting a strain on health facilities.

While workers in formal employment are able to retain their income and complete some tasks at home, the same cannot be said of daily wage earners who have to worry about feeding the families and losing existing work opportunities.

A Kigali-based accountant who was put under home based care on July 1 is yet to come to terms with anxiety linked to the virus effect on her body as she struggles to recover her sense of taste and smell, joint fatigue and insomnia.

“I remember during the two weeks that preceded the day I tested positive, I had busy work days such that by afternoon I’d catch myself wearing the mask below the chin, not sanitizing or washing hands as frequently, yet my work as cashier involves handling cash, cheques and documents from clients. I’ve come to regret it,” she told Rwanda Today.

For Noel Dukuzumuremyi, a father of two who is under home-based care, it was not until his wife who works in the banking sector started taking part in frequent work-related meetings and field trips that he started getting worried.

“She got infected then... It could have been avoided if preventive measures were respected as prescribed by health professionals."