Rwanda warns citizens against travel to DRC following Ebola outbreak

Rwandan health ministry on Monday warned Rwandans against unnecessary travel to Goma, an eastern city of Rwanda’s neighboring country Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), following the first confirmed Ebola case there.


A general view shows the triage where patients are registered after ebola screening upon entering the General Hospital in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, July 15, 2019. (Photo: VCG)

Goma shares the border with western Rwanda’s Rubavu district with daily border crossings between the two countries estimated at about 100,000 people, according to Rwanda’s emigration authority.

“This Ebola epidemic is yet to stop and now it has reached close to Rwanda. There is need to be more vigilant and to avoid unnecessary visits to Goma,” Rwandan health minister Diane Gashumba told a news briefing when touring Rwanda.

The minister on Monday visited the border district to assess the effectiveness of measures which were put in place by the government to avoid possible spread of the disease in the country such as screening of travellers entering Rwanda.

The border remains open but goods normally purchased in DRC by Rwandan people can be sourced locally until the situation is contained, she said, adding that no Ebola case has been reported in Rwanda.

The minister made a fresh appeal to Rwandan residents and visitors to seek timely medical attention at the nearest health facility whenever a person has Ebola-like symptoms such as high fever, bleeding, diarrhea and red eyes among others.

A pastor who interacted with Ebola patients in DRC’s northeastern town of Butembo became ill recently, and traveled to Goma by bus on July 14, where he later tested positive for Ebola. However, the DRC health ministry said the risk of the virus spreading in the city remains low.

The World Health Organization has recently expressed concern that the spread of Ebola in the DRC has escalated in the past few months, with more than 2,000 cases recorded since the epidemic broke out again about a year ago.

The current outbreak is the worst on record after the Ebola epidemic struck mainly Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone between 2014 and 2016, leaving more than 11,300 people dead.

Rwanda has been on high alert for a possible spread of Ebola and in April vaccinated about 3,000 healthcare and front-line workers against Ebola in areas at high risk of the outbreak. It has also been enhancing community awareness on the disease, as well as building capacity for case detection and control.