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Uganda to conduct free Covid-19 tests for truck drivers

A health worker takes a sample from a truck driver undergoing a test for COVID-19 in Busia. File Photo

Malaba, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Uganda has agreed to conduct free COVID-19 rapid tests at the border posts of Busia and Malaba for seven days to clear the pileup of trucks at the border posts.

This follows the joint multi-sectoral meeting of Ministers responsible for East African Community Affairs, Health and Transport, held virtually yesterday afternoon.

Drivers parked their trucks in Busia and Malaba towns along the roads from Kenya to Uganda for more than a week ago, protesting a mandatory COVID-19 test at a cost of 100,000 shillings or 30 dollars. The move was aimed as part of the measures by Uganda to contain the new wave of COVID-19 infections.

The meeting of the ministers resolved that negative COVID-19 test results from national accredited laboratories in the respective EAC partner states be recognized by all national authorities. They also agreed the countries EAC should implement the EACPass for prompt verification of Covid-19 test results and vaccination certificates.

The EACPass is a mobile phone app that collects and transmits negative test results and vaccination details of a traveler within the region. It has been undergoing piloting in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.

The joint multi-sectoral virtual meeting of the ministers was called to deliberate on measures to clear the snarl-up of traffic, implementation of the adopted EACPass, COVID-19 test certificate validity for truck drivers and recognition of the test certificate with negative results from accredited labs.

In case of any new measures different from those agreed on and the other protocols, the meeting resolved the partner states shall notify each other and the EAC secretariat, to mitigate the impact on movement of goods, persons and services.

EAC Secretary General, Peter Mathuki said decisions like the move by Uganda were unfortunate as they interfered with the region’s from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Harmonization of Covid-19 charges and coordinated waiting time for COVID-19 results is critical to facilitate business continuity and ease the cost of doing business,” said Dr. Mathuki.

Most of the parked trucks are destined for Uganda, but others are headed to Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and South Sudan. A follow up meeting to review the situation is set to be held on Friday, 14th January.

This EACPass, if fully implemented, is set to build confidence in all partner states since certificates are digitally authenticated from all accredited laboratories in region, according to Mathuki.

Currently, EAC partner states have finalized the technical integration of accredited laboratories within the community to the EACPass and digital certificates can be shared across the region to facilitate easy movement of EAC citizens within the region.

Mathuki says the other partner states; Kenya, South Sudan and Tanzania are finalizing the internal processes to start the piloting of the EACPass.

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