UPDATES WITH NEW MEASURES AGAINST OMICRON VARIANT
By James Tasamba
KIGALI, Rwanda (AA) – Rwanda on Wednesday confirmed its first cases of the omicron coronavirus variant, adding to the rapidly growing group of countries where the highly transmissible strain has been detected since last month.
Six cases, including people with recent travel histories and their contacts, have been confirmed through genomic sequencing of samples, the Health Ministry said in a short statement that did not provide specific details.
A ministry spokesperson also refused to share information, saying the “details are not open for media use.”
The ministry reiterated the need for everyone aged 12 and above to get vaccinated, while also urging all eligible people to get a booster shot, particularly those aged 50 and above and anyone with underlying health conditions.
The omicron strain has been found in nearly 80 countries around the world since it was identified in November by scientists in South Africa, where it has triggered an alarming surge in infections over past weeks.
The omicron variant is “spreading at a rate … not seen with any previous variant” and poses a “very high” global risk, according to the World Health Organization.
Speaking at a press briefing later in the day, Rwandan Health Minister Daniel Ngamije said the government took preventive measures to contain the spread of the omicron variant.
Travelers arriving in Rwanda will be quarantined for three days at a designated hotel at their own cost starting Wednesday, he said.
In November, the government had reintroduced mandatory 24-hour quarantine for incoming travelers following detection of the omicron variant in South Africa last month.
Also, travelers are required to give a PCR test upon their arrival and on the third and seventh day of their visit at their own cost.
The government also suspended nightclubs and live band entertainment as part of the new measures, Ngamije said.
In Rwanda, COVID-19 infections have remained low in recent months, with the cumulative total currently at 100,763, including 1,344 fatalities, according to official data.
Some 50 new cases were reported on Tuesday, bringing the seven-day tally to 314 out of 108,092 tests – an infection rate of 0.3%.
In the country of around 13 million people, over 4.2 million have been fully vaccinated and close to 7 million have been given a first vaccine dose since March this year.