In Rwanda, Speaking Drones Are The New “Town Criers” Fighting COVID-19 Misinformation

By  |  April 14, 2020

To quell misinformation which seems to be spreading even faster than the COVID-19 pandemic itself, Rwanda has taken things up several notches. Literally.

The small, landlocked country which sits in the eastern part of Africa is now using drones equipped with loudspeakers to broadcast coronavirus news and messages in villages and rural areas. The drones will also monitor if Rwandans are obeying the lockdown rules.

Rwanda has recorded 127 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic started to spread throughout Africa. To date, there are no fatalities on record and the number of recoveries currently stands at 42.

To stem the spread of the viral infection, a lockdown has since been put in place by President Paul Kagame. But the war against the novel coronavirus is proving to be more than a fight against a biological entity that cannot be seen with the naked eye. There’s another fight against a faster-spreading, equally dangerous entity: misinformation.

Since COVID-19 went from isolated outbreak to global pandemic, fakes news related to the virus has been flying around. From bogus claims that garlic and warm water were proven cures to the chloroquine episode and even recent conspiracy theories about 5G having something to with the virus, it’s been a fake news fest. 

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And it appears Rwanda is taking no chances with misinformation, even though it means doing “the elaborate.”

Rwanda National Police (RNP) announced on Sunday, April 12, the usage of drones to further raise awareness of the coronavirus pandemic in local communities.

“We have added drones to our methods of raising awareness about COVID-19,” reads part of the announcement on Twitter.

The Rwandese police says that the citizens need to listen to the message being beamed by the drones and they are not supposed to leave their houses to view the drones.

The police announcement also cautioned the public to avoid gathering in large groups where drones will be delivering messages. But this issue is unlikely to come up given that drones are sort of a common sighting in Rwanda. Drones have been used in delivering blood and medical supplies in Rwanda for, at least, the last two years.

The Rwanda lockdown, which was also extended on March 21, is expected to run through April 19.

The country has also closed all of its borders and suspended passenger flights, keeping only cargo transportation operational.

Only cargo and returning nationals and legal residents are being allowed into the country, but the latter must undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine before they are allowed back into communities.

Feature Image Courtesy: Atlantic Council

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