Rwandans, especially traders on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, are weighing options through which they can continue to carry out cross-border trade after Congo imposed new travel restrictions in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus (COVID19). On Friday, March 20, the Government of DR Congo 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. The same is the practice for Congolese entering Rwanda, as part of a bilateral arrangement to ease cross-border trade between both countries. In an interview with The New Times, Gilbert Habarimana, the Mayor of Rubavu District, said the traffic across the border has significantly reduced because many of the border users are small-scale traders, many of whom don’t possess passports or laissez-passer. The pedestrians’ border crossing at Rubavu, commonly known as Petite Barrière, is considered among the busiest international border crossings, with about 50,000 people crossing every day. He said the situation may mean reduction in trade activity across the border, though he highlighted alternatives Rwandan traders can look at, in order to stay in business despite the restrictions. “For example, they can work together to jointly bring commodities from DR Congo. Those without the required documents can still get merchandise through those that have,” he said. He said that Congolese continue to come into Rwanda without restrictions. Rwanda has so far registered 11 cases of people infected with the coronavirus, while DR Congo has three confirmed cases. Speaking to The New Times on conditions of anonymity, a female Rwandan cross-border trader in Rubavu District said the restrictions will significantly affect her business but she also said the option of creating synergies will serve as a remedy. Justin Mwungeri, a resident of the same district, fears the restrictions may cause a rise in commodity prices. “The number of people crossing the border has reduced. I have not been affected yet since I have not tried to cross. However, I guess the restrictions may fuel a rise in prices because many products sold here come from the DR Congo,” he said. Mayor Habyarimana urged citizens to respect the regulations put in place by the Congolese authorities in regard to the border movement, and also pay attention to safety measures communicated by Rwanda’s health institutions. The Ministry of Health has urged citizens to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus through observing regulations on hygiene like regularly washing their hands with soap and 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.