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COVID-19: Numbers Continue to Surge Amid Fears of Delta Variant in Rwanda

Cases of COVID-19 on Thursday surged again with daily fatalities remaining in double figures for two consecutive days as Rwanda braces itself to deal with the deadly Delta variant which officials say could be in the country already.

Rwanda on Thursday registered 911 new cases from 760 the previous day while 12 people succumbed to the virus as opposed to 16 on Wednesday. It is the first time the country has registered deaths in double figures for two days while three double figures have been recorded in the past 7 days.

According to the Ministry of Health, the deceased include eight women aged 89 in Rulindo), 82 (in Musanze), 74 (Rubavu), 74 (Rutsiro), 63 (in Musanze), 58 (in Nyamasheke), 43 (Karongi), 37 (Kigali) and six men aged 95, 65 (Nyagatare), 58 (Musanze), 55, 49 (Kigali) and 27(in Rubavu).

The number of people in critical condition has continued to increase, currently at 71. The spike in numbers comes at the time the government is conducting an assessment to see if the deadly Delta Variant that is killing many across the world is already in Rwanda.

Speaking on Radio Rwanda on Thursday, the Minister of Health Dr. Daniel Ngamije revealed that they have seen signs that point towards the Delta variant being in Rwanda.

“From the tests we have done so far, we have seen signs that suggest that the Delta variant could be in Rwanda already going by the symptoms health workers are recording among patients,” Dr. Ngamije said.

“Some of the symptoms patients are reporting include severe headache, general fatigue and lack of oxygen, which are all associated with this Delta variant,” he added.

Dr. Ngamije also pointed to the number of daily deaths as another sign to suggest that the highly infectious and fatal variant which was first detected in India, could be in Rwanda. It has also been detected in neighbouring countries such as Uganda and Kenya.

“We also know that it comes with severe symptoms and it is more fatal. We are registering deaths in double figures, which wasn’t the case before,” Dr. Ngamije said.

The delta variant, which is also known as B. 1.617, was first detected last year in India, where it has been killing many people and has since spread to dozens of other countries, resulting in fresh lockdowns.

Delta has several lineages with slightly different sets of mutations. One of those — B. 1.617.2 — is also now the dominant coronavirus variant in the United Kingdom, where it accounts for the vast majority of all covid-19 cases in that nation.

Health experts describe delta as the most “fit” variant of the coronavirus, with some experts now describing it as “Covid-19 on steroids”.

In essence this means it’s likely to outcompete other variants to infect more people with Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus and mutates faster, making it difficult to contain.

Experts suggest that the delta variant is about 50 percent more contagious than the alpha variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom and became the predominant variant in the United States during the spring.

Alpha was already about 50 percent more transmissible than the original variant of the coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China, in late 2019.

Although there is compelling evidence that delta is more transmissible, there is limited data on whether it is more likely to result in a severe illness.

In his Liberation Day message on July 4, President Kagame revealed that the country is getting more doses of vaccines to protect more people. Rwanda has so far vaccinated 392,077 people but hopes to inoculate more people before the end of the year.

Rwanda hopes to get over 3,500,000 doses from Pfizer and another 2.1 million doses from Johnson&Johnson between now and next year, as President Kagame leads efforts to start local production of vaccines to address continental shortfalls.

Rwanda has so far registered 45, 950 cases since the outbreak of the pandemic, out of which 15, 238 are active cases. The virus has so far claimed 521 people.