Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | More than 500 trucks are currently stuck at different points of entry within the East African Community because countries within the bloc do not trust COVID-19 test results from the others.
Countries within the East African Community bloc began testing drivers who enter and leave the country from the borders. In Uganda, tests are being conducted at Elegu in Northern Uganda and Mutukula in Southern Uganda at the Tanzanian Border.
While the move is aimed at solving the COVID-19 equation, it has become a burden to truck drivers according to the Uganda Truck Drivers Association because countries doubt the results issued by other jurisdictions. They add that because of that, drivers from all over East Africa are stuck at points of entry with cargo.
Byron Kinene, the chairperson of the Uganda Truck Drivers Association says that the lack of trust among EAC member countries is hurting businesses across the region.
The mistrust of results is being attributed to a scenario where a Kenyan driver last week tested positive for COVID-19 in Uganda but on returning to Kenya tested negative for the disease. The Tanzanian government equally says that a number of drivers who tested positive in Kenya posted a negative result in Tanzania.
According to Kinene, some drivers have been stuck at points of entry since Sunday because their results have not yet been released. Instead he says they are being exposed to the disease due to the poor surveillance at border points.
An official for another long-distance transport agency that wanted to remain anonymous says the double testing that is currently taking place is slowing business. He says they are spending up to three days on routes that ordinarily are supposed to take a day.
According to truck drivers, Kenya began mandatory testing in Kisumu with results supposed to be released within 48 hours. However, when the drivers get to Uganda, they are tested again. The same happens for drivers who leave Uganda for neighbouring countries.
“Kenya is not allowing Uganda’s results and Uganda too is not allowing those from Kenya. This is a problem. Right now I have ten loaded vehicles on the Kenyan-side and seven that left yesterday. This is slowing down business,” the source said.
But the Ugandan Minister of Health, Dr Jane Ruth Aceng says that the East Africa countries are yet to decide on standardized testing for the community.
The truck drivers now want a meeting with the Minister of Works and Transport to revise some of the measures that have been suggested to enable the easy flow of traffic at the border.
The Heads of state of Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and South Sudan last week held a virtual summit and decided that all truck drivers within the region should be tested for COVID-19 in their countries and those who test negative issued certificates that enable transport cargo.
In addition to this, testing is supposed to be done jointly by health workers deployed by both concerned countries so that the procedure can be observed. Truck drivers were also supposed to be tested 24 hours before departing a country of origin and the tests repeated every after 14 days. But according to Dr Aceng, some of the decisions that were agreed upon are yet to be finalized.