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Rwanda-DRC border open amid Ebola outbreak

August 1, 2019

Hours after a third case of Ebola was reported in the Congolese border town of Goma, a Rwandan minister said the country's border with the DRC had been closed. Rwanda's Health Ministry later denied the closure.

Congolese customs agents gather at the gate barriers at the border crossing point with Rwanda following its closure over ebola threat in Goma
Image: Reuters/D. Sabiti

Rwanda's health minister said Thursday that the country had not closed the border with the DRC after fresh cases of Ebola were reported in the Congolese border city of Goma.

"The border was never closed and it is not closed," Diane Gashumba said as she sat next to the state minister of foreign affairs, Olivier Nduhungirehe.

Hours earlier, Nduhungirehe told reporters that the border had been shut, sparking criticism from the DRC government.

Two new cases confirmed

The conflicting statements on the Rwanda-DRC border came after authorities confirmed the third and fourth case of Ebola in Goma. The disease broke out in the city last month, when an infected preacher arrived and preached at seven churches, regularly touching worshipers. He died after leaving the city.

Read more: Ebola in DR Congo's Goma potential 'game-changer'

The second case, reportedly unconnected to the first, was a gold miner who arrived at his family home from the provinces.

The disease has been transmitted to at least one of his 10 children and his wife before he died.

Contagion fears

There are at least 12 more suspected cases in and around Goma.

Goma, an impoverished city of 2 million people, is a major transport hub in the DRC, and the arrival of Ebola has long been feared by health experts. The densely packed, highly mobile population will make containing the highly contagious and deadly disease difficult.

More than 57,500 people travel between Goma and the small Rwandan city of Gisenyi every day.

After the preacher's death, the World Health Organization declared the epidemic a "public health emergency of international concern," prompting major funding pledges.

Read more: Ebola epidemic 'should be a wake-up call for peace in DRC'

Already in Uganda

More than 1,800 people have died from the disease in eastern DRC in the past year. In June, the disease jumped the border into Uganda.

The virus casues fever, vomiting and severe diarrhoea, often followed by kidney and liver failure, internal and external bleeding. It is transmitted through contact with infected body fluids. There is no cure, but an experimental vaccine has shown success.

aw/amp (AFP, AP, EFE, LUSA, epd)

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