Thursday January 23, 2020

Fear of Ebola Virus Brings Border Traffic Between Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo to Virtual Standstill

Beatrice Irunga, a 35-year old Congolese trader, says no one can cross the border without washing hands and being checked for fever

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A view of the Poids Lourd checkpoint on the border between Congo and Rwanda, Aug. 1, 2019. VOA

Witnesses say fears of the Ebola virus have brought border traffic between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo to a virtual standstill. Long lines and lengthy delays at the border crossings have left many traders frustrated, but officials say health checks are necessary to stop the spread of the deadly virus.

Beatrice Irunga, a 35-year old Congolese trader, says no one can cross the border without washing hands and being checked for fever.

The measures are necessary to prevent people from carrying the virus across the border. But trade-wise, Ebola fears have hit hard.

Jemima Ibrahim, a Congolese trader who sells rice and oil in Rwanda, says the long delays at the crossing are costing her time and money.

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Witnesses say fears of the Ebola virus have brought border traffic between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo to a virtual standstill. Pixabay

“The loss is huge,” she said. “We buy goods here in Rwanda. To export them to Congo is becoming very hard.”

Rwandan Claudine Irunga says she owns a shop in Goma, on the Congolese side, but can’t reach it because of the delays.

“I left Goma in the morning,” she said. “My shop is open now, and here they are not allowing us to go regardless of every document you can have. I am so sad. They say the border is open, but just look.”

The Rwandan government estimates that 80,000 people cross between Goma and the Rwandan city of Gisenyi each day.

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The government has not said the border is closed. However, it is urging its people not to enter the eastern DRC, where the Ebola virus has killed more than 1,800 people over the past year.

Dr. Diane Gashumba, Rwanda’s Minister of Health, is encouraging Rwandans not to go to DRC, and instead to find other ways to do their business in the country.

This stance goes against advice from the World Health Organization.

Dr. Kasonde Mulenga Mwinga, WHO country director, supports a flow of people to the member country to be able to address the response that is needed there.

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Long lines and lengthy delays at the border crossings have left many traders frustrated. Pixabay

The Rwandan and Congolese health ministers met Tuesday to discuss measures to stop the Ebola outbreak from spreading.

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Afterward, they said they resolved to enact ways that allow for smoother border crossings while taking “very strong measures to keep the epidemic at bay.” (VOA)

Next Story

New Virus Can Spread Through Human Contact: China

China: Possible That New Virus Could Spread Between Humans

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Security guards stand in front of the closed Huanan wholesale seafood market, where health authorities say a man who died from a respiratory illness had purchased goods from, in the city of Wuhan, Hubei province, China. VOA

The possibility that a new virus in central China could spread between humans cannot be ruled out, though the risk of transmission at the moment appears to be low, Chinese officials said Wednesday.

Forty-one people in the city of Wuhan have received a preliminary diagnosis of a novel coronavirus, a family of viruses that can cause both the common cold and more serious diseases. A 61-year-old man with severe underlying conditions died from the coronavirus on Saturday.

While preliminary investigations indicate that most of the patients had worked at or visited a particular seafood wholesale market, one woman may have contracted the virus from her husband, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said in a public notice.

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Commuters wear protection masks inside a subway train in Hong Kong, China. VOA

The commission said the husband, who fell ill first, worked at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. Meanwhile, the wife said she hasn’t had any exposure to the market.

It’s possible that the husband brought home food from the market that then infected his wife, Hong Kong health official Chuang Shuk-kwan said at a news briefing. But because the wife did not exhibit symptoms until days after her husband, it’s also possible that he infected her.

Chuang and other Hong Kong health officials spoke to reporters Wednesday following a trip to Wuhan, where mainland Chinese authorities briefed them on the outbreak.

The threat of human-to-human transmission remains low, Chuang said, as hundreds of people, including medical professionals, have been in close contact with infected individuals and have not been infected themselves.

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She echoed Wuhan authorities’ assertion that there remains no definitive evidence of human-to-human transmission.

The outbreak in Wuhan has raised the specter of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome. SARS is a type of coronavirus that first struck southern China in late 2002. It then spread to more than two dozen countries, killing nearly 800 people. (VOA)