DR Congo ends virus health emergency, borders to reopen

DR Congo President Felix Tshisekedi has lifted a health emergency over the coronavirus outbreak and ordered a reopening in three stages of business activities, schools and borders.

The vast country of more than 80 million people has recorded 8,534 infections including 196 deaths since March 10.

Tshisekedi said the figures place the Democratic Republic of Congo as ninth worst-hit country in Africa in terms of the number of cases and 12th in terms of deaths, "putting paid to all catastrophic forecasts for our country at the start of the epidemic."

Tshisekedi's government proclaimed a health emergency on March 24 in which borders were closed, as well as schools, bars and restaurants.

In a televised speech late on Tuesday, the president announced an end to the emergency.

He said that from Wednesday all shops, banks, restaurants and bars would be allowed to reopen, public transport can resume and large gatherings are permitted.

Schools and universities can reopen on August 3, and airports, ports, borders and places of worship on August 15.

But he warned that "the end of the state of emergency does not mean the end of the COVID-19 epidemic in our country," reminding citizens to wear masks in public and wash their hands frequently.