By Agnes Kiconco
KIU, Main Campus – The problem of cargo truck drivers serving as a transmission medium for the Coronavirus has caused panic and at times anger amongst the public, who accuse their respective governments of ‘importing’ the virus. A bulk of Uganda’s 264 confirmed cases so far are truck drivers from mainly Tanzania and Kenya.
Sections of the public in Uganda and Kenya have been calling for the truck drivers to be stopped at the borders so that local drivers can take over the driving from there.
President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, though admitting that truck drivers were the new frontline in the war against COVID-19, however, said it was “suicidal” to stop the truck drivers from entering Uganda because the economy would suffer.
In response, to keep the cargo trucks coming into the country because they are the lifeblood of the economy, and to also address the public’s concerns, the trade and transport national taskforce sub-committee in their advice to Cabinet, decided on a number of measures.
According to the New Vision of April 28, the sub-committee decided that the drivers will be allowed to stop at a few designated stop points in the country, unlike previously where they stopped at a number of towns all over.
They would be allowed to stop at only Namboole, Ntungamo, Lukaya, Soroti and the Uganda Revenue Authority offices at Corner Kamdini.
In another measure, the Ministry of Health on May 15 announced on their official twitter page that, “All truck drivers arriving via Mutukula point of entry will be tested for COVID-19 and their results given within 45 minutes.”
The above announcement followed a decision by the government to pilot the use of GeneXpert machines at Mutukula and Malaba borders. Read here.
Elsewhere, Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta also ordered the closure of Kenya's borders with Tanzania and Somalia in a bid to halt the import of new COVID-19 cases from the two countries.
He announced that the border would only be open to cross-border cargo movements. All drivers of the cargo vehicles would also have to undergo tests before being allowed into Kenya.
He noted that unlike other countries that had begun easing lockdown measures, Kenya did not need to follow suit until there is a decline in COVID-19 infections.
In Tanzania, the closure of their border with Kenya led to President John Pombe Magufuli to retaliate by totally closing the Tanzanian side of the border, and warning that their neighbours will soon go running to Tanzania for food.
With the three neighbours seeming to be running a concerted effort to reduce the spread of the disease by cargo drivers, there is hope that this conundrum will be solved and pave way for the total defeat of COVID-19 within East African borders.
Additional information from the East African newspaper
Picture credit: Internet photo