Vietnam has confirmed that Coronavirus outbreaks believed to stem from an airport in Ho Chi Minh City may have been caused by a variant first detected in Rwanda.
Vietnam’s Municipal Centre for Disease Control said in a report that “genome sequencing results showed that the virus that is raging in Ho Chi Minh City was first found in Rwanda in the third week of October 2020.”
The mutated coronavirus, named A.23.1., has been detected in the U.S., UAE, Australia, the UK, and Denmark since.
The startling development comes just weeks after UK took the urgent decision to ban travel to the UK from Rwanda and other countries “to prevent the spread of the new variant originally identified in South Africa into the UK.”
Kigali protested Britain’s decision to add Rwanda, to its to red travel ban list, saying it had done more to contain the spread of COVID-19.
“Considering the list of countries in the region affected and not affected by the ban, the sparse information communicated to Rwanda does not stand up to scientific scrutiny,” said Rwanda.
“The Government of Rwanda looks forward to receiving clarifications on the motivations behind this arbitrary decision of the UK Government.”
Britain has since stood its ground on its decision, blocking direct flights from Rwanda – a move expected to cripple Rwandair.
RwandAir usually has large numbers of passengers connecting from Britain through Kigali to Lusaka, Harare and Entebbe.
RwandAir will not be able to make flights to UK over fears that the new COVID-19 variant could have spread to Rwanda
Vietnam media said no abnormal complications have been recorded in these countries regarding this variant from Rwanda, which is different from the more contagious B.1.1.7 found in the UK.
Rwanda Coronavirus variant
“Scientists sequenced virus fragments in samples taken from three COVID-19 patients in the city to reach the conclusion,” Vietnamese media reported.
Ho Chi Minh City recorded the first patient of the new wave, a porter at Tan Son Nhat International Airport, on February 6.
It has recorded an additional 33 domestic cases ever since, most traced back to the airport.
City authorities have shuttered non-essential services like bars, clubs, and karaoke parlours to stall COVID-19 spread.
They cancelled Lunar New Year fireworks displays to prevent large gatherings.
Informed officials told us on Wednesday morning that Rwanda’s biggest fear is that its COVID-19 problems could complicate plans to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame and Commonwealth Secretary-General, Hon Patricia Scotland recently announced the new date for CHOGM which was to have been held in Kigali in June 2020 but was postponed because of the impact of COVID-19.
The 26th CHOGM and associated events will be held in Kigali during the week of 21 June 2021.
Kigali had claimed that Rwanda would make $700 million worth of investment and trade deals with foreign investors at CHOGM.
But this may not be possible unless the COVID-19 pandemic is adequately controlled in Rwanda.
Authorities have tightened COVID-19 prevention controls including a lockdown in the capital Kigali.
Before the Covid19 pandemic, Rwanda was one of the 10 poorest countries in the world.
56.5% of Rwandans lived under the International poverty line – earning less than US$1.90 a day.
According to the January 2021 World Bank Rwanda Economic Update, poverty increased by 5.7% since Covid19 hit Rwanda – meaning that now 62.2% of Rwandans are poor.
With Tourist arrivals dropped to almost zero, the hotel and restaurant subsector shrunk by 39.3 percent.
Travel and transport earnings fell respectively by 73.2 percent and 41.7 percent in the first three quarters of 2020.
The mining output collapsed by 35 percent.
The fall in capital goods imports (42.4 percent) and intermediary goods (24.7 percent) accounted for about 90 percent of the fall in the Q2 imports bill.
Tax revenues for Q2- 2020 fell by 12.6 percent in real terms compared to the second quarter of 2019.
Between February and May 2020, aggregate employment fell by nearly 370,000, or by about 10 percent.
Nearly 60 percent of workers who kept their jobs through the lockdown reported receiving lower salaries during the lockdown.
Nevertheless, the World Bank said the Government of Rwanda initiated a response to the pandemic, with the adoption of the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) estimated at US$900 million over the two fiscal years 2019/20 and 2020/21.
The recovery plan aims to scale up social safety net programs for the most vulnerable, build key infrastructures, and support strategic enterprises, including small- and medium-size enterprises.