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Truck drivers protest against Covid-19 testing fees at Malaba border post

Trucks at Malaba. No entry to Uganda until Covid-19 testing is done. File Photo

Malaba, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Business at the Malaba border in Tororo district is on the halt as truck drivers enter a third day of strike.

The truck drivers are protesting against the mandatory fee of Ugx100,000 (3,600 Kshs) charged for COVID-19 testing as they cross to the Ugandan side.

The drivers who started the silent strike on Monday have since parked their trucks and sealed off the road vowing not to cross to the Ugandan side until government harmonizes their positions on either reducing the charges or scrap it off completely like it’s done in other countries.

According to the drivers who are destined to various countries, the COVID-19 testing fee levied on them disregards the spirit of the East African Community integration.

Mohammed Gitui, one of the drivers says that as part of the integration, there would be a common practice in all the East African Community member states.

“We are not completely opposed to the charges but we are saying it should be made affordable or even consider scrapping it completely as it’s being done on the Kenyan side,” he appealed.

He said it’s even surprising that they undergo COVID-19 testing as they leave Mombasa but on crossing to the Ugandan side, the health authorities at Malaba disregard the COVID-19 test result and subject them to a fresh test at a fee.

Another driver Abdul Karanja says he is aware that one is supposed to test after seven days but for him, he tested three days ago but still he is to be subjected to a fresh test and he wonders why.

Paul Kibii, a public health officer Port Health Services at Malaba on the Kenyan side said the drivers are right to complain because they undergo testing before setting off from Kenya.

“We as Port Health authorities of Kenya give accurate COVID-19 results because the laboratories we use are accredited by the World Health Organization therefore they are so reputable that they expect no doubt on the results,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Port Health authorities at Malaba Uganda have declined to comment but an officer at the border who preferred anonymity said they are considering some of the tests, but added that some of the drivers have fake results.

He said in some incidents those who claim to have tested negative from the Kenyan side have turned positive when re-tested from Uganda and that they cannot take chances.

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