COVID-19: Rwanda Set to Import “More” Medical Oxygen Plants

As the country battles a recent spike in coronavirus infections that are leading to hospitalization, Rwanda will spend over Rwf4 billion (approximately $4 million) to import oxygen plants to increase local production. 

Officials say the current oxygen supply is adequate, but the government is acquiring more to avoid a shortage if the number of cases continues to rise.

“At the moment we have enough oxygen but we are importing more oxygen plants…the government decided to buy plants…this week new ones will be in the country. 

“The plan is that if, for example, a hospital caring for critical coronavirus cases uses 200 oxygen cylinders per day, we at least reserve 300 for that particular hospital…” Pie Harerimana, the Chief Executive Officer of Rwanda Medical Supplies (RMS), reveals.

As of September 2020, the country had seven operational public oxygen plants producing roughly 7,000 cylinders (50L) per month, with a total maximum oxygen production capacity of 355 cylinders (50L) each day or around 10,800 cylinders per month. 

Oxymat, Inmatec, Airsep, Craft, and Amico are suppliers of oxygen plants.

“For some hospitals we did piping, where we just bring in an oxygen plant. We want to have oxygen plants in each hospital and cylinders will just be used as back up,” Harerimana said. 

On July 1, the authorities ordered a partial lockdown. Covid-19 instances have continued to grow, with active cases increasing to 15,397 from 12,194 on July 6, and patients in serious condition increasing to 57 from 37 on July 1. The total number of deaths has risen to 491 from 448 previously. 

President Paul Kagame stressed the importance of following health standards to prevent the virus from spreading during his national address on July 4, which was Liberation Day.

“Some relief is on the way in terms of vaccines to raise the level of protection starting with those most at risk and eventually reaching as many Rwandans as possible,” he said, adding that Rwanda is trying to build capabilities to manufacture vaccines and other medications in the country targeted at reducing dependency on imports.

On July 6, a total of 392,003 persons had received one or both doses of the vaccination. 

By June 2022, Rwanda will require three million doses of vaccine to inoculate 60 percent of its 12.6 million inhabitants. 

Rwanda has increased Covid-19 restrictions in order to stem the spread of the virus and reduce the risk of a severe third wave, which has already wreaked havoc on its neighbors, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. 

The government implemented new restrictions, including prohibiting all social events, closing schools, and requiring the bulk of government employees to work from home. Curfew time was adjusted from the initial 9pm-4am to 6pm-4am.

Except for medical reasons and other critical services, movement between Kigali and other provinces in the country is restricted.

“The pandemic today is worse than ever. We are recording over 800 new cases a day. Younger people are dying, hospitals are crowded and the virus is spreading faster than before. We need to collaborate and comply with the guidelines to bring back some normalcy,” Minister of State in Charge of Primary Health Care, Dr. Tharcisse Mpunga, said on national television on Tuesday.

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