DR Congo president imposes state of emergency to contain coronavirus outbreak

The President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo closed the country’s borders and imposed a state of emergency on Tuesday to contain the coronavirus epidemic, following other African countries which have imposed strict measures in recent days.

The virus is spreading rapidly across Africa, infecting more than 1,700 people in 45 countries, testing already fragile health systems. Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire declared their own state of emergency on Monday, imposing curfews and travel restrictions on their populations.

More than 40 people contracted the virus in the DRC and three were killed, which raises fears of a generalized epidemic, in particular in the overcrowded capital Kinshasa where social distancing is a foreign phenomenon.

“The coronavirus does not need a passport, visa or voter card to circulate in our house,” President Felix Tshisekedi said on Tuesday in a speech to the nation. “We find ourselves at war with an invisible adversary.”

The president banned domestic passenger flights and river transportation to and from Kinshasa, where the 45 known cases were found. Last week, it suspended commercial flights from other countries with the virus, banned large gatherings and closed clubs, restaurants and bars.