RUBAVU – Rwandans especially traders on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo are crying foul after Kinshasa imposed new tough travel restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID19).
The decision to close the border, which was quickly condemned by Rwanda’s government, came after a 17th case of the coronavirus was reported in Kigali, forcing Congo to imposed restrictions where only people with passports and laissez-passer are allowed to cross to their territory.
Ordinarily, residents from around the border area have been crossing into the neighbouring country using temporary passes which are given to them upon presenting a national ID.
Local media reported that thousands were stranded since Friday on both sides of the crossing between Goma and the Rwandan towns of Rubavu and Gisenyi, the busiest points along the roughly 100-mile border.
DR Congo has three confirmed cases.
Gilbert Habarimana, the Mayor of Rubavu District was quoted by The New Times as saying that the traffic across the border has significantly reduced because many of the border users are small-scale traders, many of whom don’t have the travel requirements set by DR Congo
The New Times also reported that the situation may mean a reduction in trade activity across the border.
Rwanda’s Health authorities have urged citizens to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus through observing regulations on hygiene like regularly washing their hands with soap and the use of disinfectants.
Other measures include social distancing, avoiding touching faces, and reporting suspicious cases by calling 114, Rwanda Biomedical Centre’s toll-free number.
On Wednesday, the Government of Rwanda announced serious travel restrictions, including halting all passenger flights in and out of the country as a way to fight the spread of COVID-19.
This is in addition to the closure of schools and places of worship and suspended all large gatherings for two weeks, a period which health officials say might be revised based on prevailing circumstances.
More than 209,000 people have been infected globally, of whom at least 86,000 have recovered, while more than 8,700 have died from the outbreak that was earlier this month declared a global pandemic by WHO.