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Influx of truckers at Elegu border threatens Covid-19 fight in Amuru

Thousands of trucks are parked at Elegu as drivers strike over attacks in South Sudan.

Amuru, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The congestion of long-distance truck drivers at Elegu township in Amuru district is threatening the fight against the coronavirus disease. Currently, over 6,000 truckers have parked their trucks in Elegu township in protest against the persistent ambushes in South Sudan while delivering cargo to the capital, Juba.

The drivers are demanding security assurances from the Juba administration, compensation of their colleagues who have been killed or suffered unprecedented damage from the ambushes.

Four foreign truck drivers including a Ugandan and three Kenyans have been killed in ambushes along Nimule-Juba highway and dozens injured since the beginning of July this year.

Robert Onekalit, the in charge of Elegu port health revealed that as the truckers protest enters the 10th day, residents are at risk of infections because the drivers are freely mingling with the border community. “We got one positive case from Juba on Saturday and two more on Sunday,” Oneka told URN in an interview on Wednesday.

Walter Ondele, one of the striking cargo drivers who has spent five days at the border, says the influx of truckers will inevitably continue unless the East African community responds to their plight.

Amuru District Health Officer, Dr. Patrick Odong Olwedo disclosed that Elegu has been the epitome of infections due to the influx of truck drivers since March 2020, when the pandemic broke out in the country. He urged government to code the health portal to handle the numerous cases.

Amuru Resident District Commissioner Geoffrey Oceng Osborn, who doubles as the Covid-19 taskforce chairperson revealed that they have written to Uganda Revenue Authority-URA at the Uganda-Kenya border in Malaba to halt the clearance of trucks en-route to South Sudan to help mitigate congestion at Elegu.

Statistics from the District Health Department indicate that between April 2020 and 31 July, 2021, up to 43,702 cumulative samples were tested from Elegu and the immediate Amuru communities. Of the number, over 35,000 tested positive especially truck drivers.

The authorities are also concerned about the possible spillover of the increased positive cases of the pandemic from neighbouring South Sudan. According to the World Health Organization in South Sudan, from Jan 3, 2020, to Aug 2021, there have been 11,436 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 120 deaths.



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