Rwanda warns against traveling to Ebola-hit areas in DRC, dismisses reports of border closure

Source: Xinhua| 2019-08-02 13:25:02|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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KIGALI, Aug. 1 (Xinhua) -- All travels to Ebola-hit areas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) should be avoided, Rwandan Health Minister Diane Gashumba said Thursday while dismissing reports that Rwanda has closed its border with the DRC.

"Unessential travels to eastern DRC, including cross-border trade should be highly avoided," said Gashumba when addressing a press conference in Kigali.

In response to earlier reports saying that Rwanda has closed its border with the DRC, she noted that Rwanda's border with DRC remains open, adding that the government would issue a statement in case of a temporary closure at the border.

Traffic at the border slowed down on Thursday morning as measures were put in place to reinforce screening procedures and public safety at entry points, she said.

The minister also cautioned against illegal crossings from or to the DRC.

She emphasized the need to seek immediate medical advice when falling ill during or immediately after traveling to the DRC.

The presidency's office of the DRC said in a statement earlier on Thursday that Rwanda has closed its border with its western neighbor after a man died of Ebola in the populous eastern DRC city of Goma, which borders Rwanda to the east.

The man, in his 40s, has tested positive for the deadly virus and died on Wednesday in Goma. He was the second confirmed Ebola case in the city.

The DRC health authorities announced late Wednesday the confirmation of a third case in Goma.

This week marks one year since the start of the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the DRC that has already killed more than 1,700 people, making it the second worst Ebola outbreak in history.

Several United Nations agencies on Wednesday issued a joint statement calling for solidarity to end the current Ebola outbreak in the DRC.

"At this critical juncture, we reaffirm our collective commitment to the people of the DRC; we mourn those we have lost; and we call for solidarity to end this outbreak," the joint statement said.

Rwanda has a detailed National Preparedness Plan for Ebola in place and has trained health workers in early detection and response, educated communities about Ebola, vaccinated health workers in high-risk areas, put up health facilities, and continues to conduct simulation exercises to maintain a high level of readiness.

Screening for Ebola symptoms at points of entry has been ongoing since the beginning of the outbreak in the DRC, and has been reinforced since the confirmation of a case in Goma.

An Ebola Treatment Center was put in place in the country and 23 isolation units are being prepared in hospitals in 15 priority districts. Ebola response simulation exercises are conducted on a regular basis within the communities, borders, airports and treatment center to test Rwanda's preparedness in response to a case, which includes emergency operations center activation, active surveillance, case management and laboratory testing.

About 3,000 health workers in high-risk areas have been vaccinated as a preventive measure, and over 23,000 people including doctors, nurses, hospital staff, community health workers, religious leaders, Red Cross volunteers and security organs have been trained.