East Africa: Truck Drivers In Focus As Virus Hits East Africa

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Arusha — Uganda is pressing for action against cross border truck drivers it blames for the spread of Covid-19 infections in parts of the region.

The landlocked country wants a joint action by the East African Community (EAC) partner states to deal with the threat posed by drivers ferrying goods across the borders.

Uganda is particularly concerned by truck drivers entering the country from Tanzania and Kenya, some of whom have been found to be infected by the virus.

The minister for Health Ms Jane Aceng was quoted on Friday as saying a meeting of health ministers from the EAC states would be convened over the issue.

"They discuss ways in which they can deal with the threat of truck drivers and Covid-19 infections," she said in one of her briefings on the pandemic.

Like the rest of the EAC partner states, Uganda is third after Kenya and Tanzania in the number of confirmed cases but no death has been reported from there.

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President Yoweri Museveni, who had been tuned to daily updates on the situation, is reported to be irked by the role of incoming truck drivers in the spread of the disease.

"He emphasized the need to solve the problem at the borders for the truck drivers who enter the country before they are tested," a Uganda newspaper quoted officials as saying.

The Citizen could not independently establish when exactly the health ministers would meet. The last meeting of the EAC health ministers took place mid last month.

The six partner states agreed to work jointly in the fight against the pandemic which to date had more than 500 confirmed cases and scores of deaths across the region.

However, the Health ministers and those responsible for EAC Affairs resolved movement of trucks carrying goods be allowed to continue as long as they are disinfected.

Crew members being drivers and their assistants will be screened and quarantined for 14 days in countries of destination as per the set guidelines.

Last week the EAC secretariat reiterated that restrictions imposed due to the outbreak of coronavirus exempted movement of goods and services.

"We are urging governments to lift closure of borders to the trucks," the secretary general Liberat Mfumukeko pleaded.

He admitted, however, that the pandemic has gravely affected key economic sectors of the EAC such as tourism and regional trade.

"Movement of goods is not as fluid as it used to be," he said as he flagged off nine mobile laboratories being dispatched to the partner states to fight the virus.

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