Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Ministry of Health will with immediate effect counsel and test all truck drivers employed in Uganda. No truck driver will also be allowed from entering the country from tonight unless they have negative COVID-19 results.
All those tested, will then have to adopt and implement the new “Truck Driver Journey Management System” Mobile application for easier monitoring.
This was agreed today in a meeting of representatives of the Truck Owners and National Logistics Platform where a plan to mobilize and counsel drivers was agreed.
These will be one several new measures to be taken after a Presidential Directive that only truck drivers with negative test results be allowed into the country.
Faced with the challenge of registering many new cases of COVID-19 imported from the neighbouring East African Community member states, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng the Minister of Health confirmed a new directive from President Museveni.
“H. E made a directive today that only truck drivers with negative COVID-19 test results will be allowed to enter Uganda,” she said.
All trucks drivers will be expected to first, undergo testing from their respective points of origin before embarking on their journeys.
Dr Aceng says that although Uganda is building its local testing capacities at the border entry points, they want the EAC member states to agree on a common approach of identifying and managing COVID-19 cases such that they can reduce risks of spreading the virus across borders.
The preferred testing process according to Dr Aceng will be connected to a regional network through which the EAC member states will be able to effectively track the patients before they interact with the community.
Last month, the East African Community developed a Regional Comprehensive COVID-19 Response Plan aimed at reinforcing measures to protect and prevent further spread of the virus in the region.
Some of the key interventions proposed in the plan are; risk communication and sensitization program and awareness creation, strengthening of the regional capacity for COVID-19 surveillance and reporting at all key border points, building regional capacity to support the Partner States on research, monitoring and coordination of preparedness to the pandemic among others things.
However, the plan according to Dr Aceng is not being implemented by some member states, saying that they have also asked the President Yoweri Museveni to ask other Heads of State to fast-track operationalization of the proposals.
Dr Isaac Ssewanyana, the Laboratory Director at the Uganda National Health Laboratory Services says Uganda is now leveraging from existing capacities in managing other deadly viruses that have hit the country before, reinforcing response to COVID-19.
He explains that they are now working around the clock to set up modern laboratories at the main border points on entry to facilitate rapid testing of all travellers before they enter the country.
On Friday, the Ministry of Health and National Health Laboratory Services commissioned a Genexpert Laboratory at the Uganda-Tanzania border post of Mutukula to facilitate on-spot Covid-19 testing for all travellers.
Having the tests done and results got instantly at points of entrance will at according to Dr Ssewanyana save Uganda of the cross-border transition of the virus as they wait for member states to begin on-site testing of their drivers.
The number of COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to 203 after 43 more people tested positive to the virus Friday – all truck drivers.
The new cases comprise 15 Ugandans, nine Kenyans and four Eritreans who entered the country through the Elegu border point. Six cases including five Tanzanians and one Burundian entered through Mutukula while five Kenyans, two Ugandans, one Burundian and one person whose nationality is unknown entered through Malaba.
The cases were part of 1,838 samples that were tested on Friday at Uganda Virus Research Institute and the Mutukula Point of Entry Laboratory.
Kenya to close borders with Tanzania, Somalia over virus fears
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta announced Saturday that the country’s coronavirus measures would be extended and its borders with Tanzania and Somalia closed.
The East African nation will stop the movement of people and vehicles — but not goods — from its southern and northern neighbours from midnight, the president said.
“Among the positive cases that have been registered in the country this week, a total of 43 cases have recently crossed the border from neighbouring Somalia and Tanzania,” Kenyatta said in a televised address.
That represents almost a quarter of the 166 cases recorded during that period, he added. Kenya has so far reported 830 positive coronavirus cases and 50 deaths.
Tanzania has been increasingly criticised over its management of the pandemic.
Meanwhile experts have warned that Somalia — a fragile, under-resourced state already facing an armed insurgency, a locust invasion and flooding — is unable to cope with an outbreak.
Kenyatta also said the national 7pm-5am curfew would be extended until June 6, as would a ban on entering or exiting the cities of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale and Mandera.
“A brutal and unforgiving enemy is at our wall. He is trying to gain entrance using every door and every window,” Kenyatta said.
He also announced that truck drivers would be tested before entering Kenya, saying that border tests had identified 78 infected drivers, all turned back.
International flights have been suspended since March 25.
“If we do not take additional precautionary measures and get even more serious in implementing existing guidelines, the number of people who will get sick and die is going to rise sharply,” he warned.