Gorillas in Our Midst
By Tony Shields and Fayth Yoshimura
We went to Rwanda last month to visit our son Ryan. He is working in a rural hospital there providing care as an OB/GYN. They take Covid-19 very seriously in Rwanda. We had to get tested four times throughout our 10 days of travel. This included having a PCR test before leaving the U.S.,and then being swabbed at the Kigali International Airport upon arrival. We were then transported to a hotel for quarantine overnight until our tests came back negative.
At that point, we were free to travel around, but they had a curfew at 8 p.m. and you could get arrested for not wearing a mask. People even wore their masks while walking around outside. Rwanda’s Covid rates are about 1/10 those in the U.S, even with the limited availability of vaccines (an 8 percent vaccine rate). They have prioritized vaccination to health care workers and people working with tourists.
We did a trek to see the gorillas. Since gorillas can get Covid, the Rwandan government takes special precautions; more than most of the U.S. has done in dealing with humans. We had to get tested before seeing them. They have a national system to track Covid tests, so the results of our swabs were available online and we got a QR code along with our reports. When we initially checked in at the ranger station, they scanned our QR codes and matched them with our passports to make sure that we were Covid negative.
The guides and trackers have all been vaccinated against Covid. When we went into the forest to see the gorillas, we had to be socially distanced from them and had to wear masks. Undoubtedly a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
Tony is a medical oncologist and Fayth is a retired virologist. They met working in virology labs at MIT. They live in suburban Detroit.