Rwanda says border with DRC 'open for travels as usual'

Thursday August 1 2019

Congolese people walk near the gate barriers at the border crossing point with Rwanda following its closure over Ebola threat in Goma, eastern DR Congo on August 1, 2019. PHOTO | REUTERS

Congolese people walk near the gate barriers at the border crossing point with Rwanda following its closure over Ebola threat in Goma, eastern DR Congo on August 1, 2019. PHOTO | REUTERS 

IVAN R. MUGISHA
By IVAN R. MUGISHA
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Rwanda on Thursday said its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo was “open for travels as usual”.

The border had been shut for several hours after a third case of Ebola was confirmed in the border city of Goma.

“Rwanda’s border with the DRC is open, following traffic slow-down this [Thursday] morning as measures were put in place to reinforce screening procedures and public safety at entry points,” the ministry of health said in a statement.

Earlier reports had indicated that immigration officials at the Gisenyi (Rubavu) border post were only allowing Congolese residents to depart the country.

The Congolese presidency termed the move a unilateral decision by the Rwandan authorities to restrict movement at the border, “which runs counter to the advice of the World Health Organisation.”

Goma, a densely populated city with about two million people, shares the border with the Rwandan city of Gisenyi. Thousands of people cross between Rwanda and DRC every day, mostly traders and border community dwellers, according to Rwanda's Directorate General of Immigration and Emmigration.

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Earlier, Rwandan Minister of Health Diane Gashumba had assured residents that the border would not be closed, but cautioned against unnecessary border crossings to the regions in Goma where the haemorrhagic fever had been reported.

No Ebola case has been reported in Rwanda, but the WHO caused alarm last month when it reported that a fishmonger who had died of Ebola was suspected to have crossed between DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda. The organisation, however, retracted its statement, noting that the woman had not travelled to Rwanda.

Rwanda has conducted several drills to equip health workers, emergency responders and hospitals in case of an Ebola outbreak. On top of daily border surveillance, the ministry of health said it had trained over 23,600 medical personnel, police officers and volunteers, as well as conducted countywide sensitisation campaigns about the virus.

The Cabinet has also approved the use of an experimental drug—Recombinant Vesicular Stomatitis Virus Vaccination—for the protection against the virus.

At least 1,803 people have died from the virus in the second worst outbreak of Ebola on record, according to WHO statistics.

The DR Congo outbreak is the second deadliest on record, after more than 11,000 people died in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia between 2014-2016.

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