DEMOCRATIC Republic of Congo (DRC) ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mawapanga Mwana Panga, has reassured the Sadc region that the deadly Ebola virus detected in his country at the weekend would not spread to other countries as it was confined to the equatorial forest.
About 13 people died in the past month after contracting an unidentified fever in the Equateur region of the DRC.
Two cases were confirmed as having been caused by Ebola after tests on Sunday sparking fears that the deadly virus was spreading far beyond West Africa.
More than 1 400 people in West Africa have so far been killed by the deadly strain.
However, Mwana Panga told Southern Eye yesterday that there was no need for Sadc member states to panic.
“It’s true that there is an outbreak of Ebola. Look at the map of DRC. It’s big and is the size of Western Europe and DRC is the second largest country in Africa after Algeria.
“What I am saying is that the disease has been detected in the town of Bende (and) that area is in the equatorial forests,” Mwana Panga said.
“There is no way that the disease could affect people in Lubumbashi and Kinshasa.
“The area is thousands of kilometres from where haulage trucks reach.
“There is no road linking the two cities of Kinshasa and Lubumbashi (and) one has to fly. So absolutely there is no danger to the region,” Mwana Panga said.
There is a huge volume of haulage trucks that carry goods from the Durban harbour in South Africa through Zimbabwe and Zambia and confirmation of the outbreak is likely to send shockwaves in most Sadc countries.
Zimbabwe has a huge volume of haulage trucks that carry sulphur and steel to the DRC where it is used in mines. Trucks from DRC carry copper ore known as ndambashi and refined copper that passes through Zambia and Zimbabwe on the way to Durban.
Sadc health ministers met three weeks ago in South Africa to formulate a regional response to the Ebola outbreak.
DRC Health minister Felix Kabange Numbi confirmed that 13 people died from Ebola in his country during an outbreak and five of them were healthcare workers. He said some 80 others were being monitored.
Senegal closed its borders over Ebola fears and the closure includes any aircraft and ships travelling to Senegal from Guinea, Sierra Leone or Liberia.
A major outbreak in the DRC would be catastrophic as it shares borders with nine countries, including Zambia that borders Zimbabwe.
In June 1995, the Zimbabwe Football Association was forced to fly a second-string team to the then Zaire for a crucial African Cup of Nations qualifier after all star players withdrew from the trip out of fear of the deadly Ebola virus that had killed hundreds in the vast Central African country.
The Warriors’ then Europe-based players, among them star goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar and Norman Mapeza, refused to go to Zaire fearing that they would be placed under quarantine in England and Turkey respectively where they plied their trade.