Coronavirus: the new disease COVID-19 explained for Rwanda.
Rwanda confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on March 13th. The Ministry of Health is asking all residents of Rwanda to continue observing all instructions from health authorities, particularly by washing hands regularly, maintaining physical distance from people (at least 1 meter), staying inside your home, and reporting any symptoms by calling the toll-free number 114.

Latest statement by Ministry of Health


The new coronavirus and its disease (COVID-19) is caused by a new strain of coronavirus first found in Wuhan, China in December 2019.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses found in both animals and humans. Some infect people and are known to cause illness ranging from a cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

There are still some things we don’t know about the virus, but there are many actions we can take to prevent transmission of the virus.

A healthy person can get the virus through close contact with an infected person. “Close contact” means physically touching them, touching items they have used or coughed/sneezed on, or spending a lot of time within 1 meter of them while they are sick.

The virus spreads through direct contact with ‘drops’ of saliva. These fluids come out of the nose or mouth. For example:

  • When an infected person coughs or sneezes, these droplets can enter the eyes, nose or mouth of another person
  • If an infected person sneezes and coughs into their hands and touches another person or a surface
  • When a person touches surfaces and objects that are contaminated by those droplets
  • It may also be possible for the virus to spread through contact with feces of someone who has COVID-19, but this is less common Symptoms of COVID-19 normally begin within 2-14 days after exposure, usually around 5 days. For most people, coronavirus is mild and similar to a cold (runny nose, fever, sore throat, cough and shortness of breath).
  • It can be more severe for some persons and can lead to pneumonia or breathing difficulties.
  • If the disease becomes severe, organ failure can occur and this can be life threatening.
  • The disease can lead to death, but this is rare.


    There is currently no vaccine or specific antiviral treatment for the virus that causes COVID-19.Treating the symptoms of COVID-19 can help people to recover.
    Go to the doctor if you have a fever, cough or feel that it is difficult to breath. This is the best way to look after yourself and stop the infection spreading to your family and others. Make sure to first call the toll-free number 114 and let them know your symptoms so you don’t infect other people.


    1. Wash your hands frequently using soap and water. If soap is not available, alcohol based hand gel or cold ashes may be used to wash away germs.
    2. When coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth or nose with a tissue or your bent elbow. Try not to sneeze and cough into your hands because then you will spread the virus with your hands. Throw the tissue into a bin. If you cough/sneeze into your hand, don’t touch anything and immediately was your hands with soap and water.
    3. Avoid close contact with anyone who is coughing, sneezing, or is sick. Keep at least 1 (3 feet) distance and encourage them to go to a nearby healthcare center.
    4. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Hands touch many surfaces which can be contaminated with the virus. If you touch your eyes, nose or mouth with your contaminated hands, you can transfer the virus from the surface to yourself.
    5. Go to the doctor if you have a fever, cough or feel that it is difficult to breath. This is the best way to look after yourself and stop the infection spreading to your family and others. Make sure to first call the toll-free number 114 and let them know your symptoms so you don’t infect other people.
    6. Stay home when you are sick.
    7. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces with chlorine- or alcohol-containing cleaning solutions. It is not yet known if and how long the virus lasts on surfaces, but a disinfectant with 70% alcohol can kill it.

    Psychological Coping During Disease Outbreak

    In the face of the recent emergence of pneumonia associated with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), many of us would feel worrisome, especially as we have experienced EBOLA or SARS back in 2003 and do not wish to relive the pain and fear caused by the outbreak.
    It is understandable for people to experience the fear and anxiety in face of uncertainty; they can help us cope with the situation in short term. Yet, if the fear and anxiety turn to a long-term condition or become very intense, they would not help people, but rather lower one’s ability to adapt and cope with the crisis. Meanwhile, we may also experience other common post-critical incident reactions such as low mood, insomnia, anger etc.
    It is therefore important for us to adjust emotionally in a way that is healthy to both mind and body.
    Below are some tips for us during these times:


    • Fact-check any news you receive from different places against more trustworthy sources;
    • Educate yourself and others with accurate information such as proper hand washing and cleaning practices, clinics and hospitals to seek help from when needed, and places to buy cleaning materials;
    • Maintain your daily routine as much as possible: you can continue to engage in leisure or meaningful activities even at home, like talking to or spending time with family and pets, reading books, cooking, and doing relaxation exercises;
    • Take time to acknowledge your own, normal feelings of fear and helplessness;
    • Call your friends and family to keep in touch and show your care for each other.


    • Share information and news that can cause fear and confusion to yourself and others without fact-checking against trustworthy sources;
    • Blindly follow actions and recommendations you receive without fact-checking, and these may lead to further confusion and unhelpful or irrational behaviors such as excessive purchases of food and medical supplies, and holding stigma against people with sickness;
    • Spend too much time looking for information / news, as excessive reading would only create more fear and anxiety than you already hold;
    • Keep thoughts and feelings to yourself without sharing your concerns with loved ones.