Rwanda seals Congo border after third Ebola case in Goma

Congolese customs agents gather at the gate barriers at the border crossing point with Rwanda following its closure over ebola threat in Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, August 1, 2019. (Reuters)
Rwandan authorities closed the border with the Ebola-hit Congolese city of Goma on Thursday for all people other than Congolese citizens leaving Rwanda, as a third case of Ebola was confirmed in Goma.

The daughter of an Ebola patient in the eastern Congo city has contracted the virus, Congolese officials confirmed, the third case in a city of at least 1 million people that neighbors Rwanda.

Rwandan state minister for foreign affairs ministry, Olivier Nduhungirehe, told Reuters by phone that the border had been shut at Rwanda’s nearest town of Gisenyi but declined to give further details.

Confirmation of the third case in Goma increased fears the virus could take root in the densely populated city, which is more than 350 km (220 miles) south of where the outbreak was first detected. The second case died after he sought treatment too late and was already bleeding, authorities said on Wednesday.

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“The tests on a suspected case at the Goma Ebola treatment center came out positive for the Ebola virus. Investigations are still underway around this... case,” Dr Aaron Aruna Abedi, who coordinates the Ebola response for Congo’s health ministry, told Reuters on the phone.

After the first Ebola case in Goma was confirmed in mid-July, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the outbreak an international health emergency. It was earlier reluctant to do so, partly out of fear countries bordering Congo might shut their frontiers.

When declaring the emergency, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said explicitly that no country should close borders or impose any travel or trade restrictions.

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“The Congolese authorities deplore this decision, which runs counter to the advice of the WHO (World Health Organisation),” on fighting the virus, the Congolese presidency statement said.

The first Ebola case to hit Goma is not linked to the second or third, authorities say.

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