The movement of trucks between Tanzania and Uganda at the Mutukula border has resumed after the two countries reached a consensus on measures to implement while mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Mr William Mkenda, Customs Officer in Charge at Mtukula border (Tanzania), truck drivers will now have to undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing in line with East African Community guidelines to tackle trans-border spread of the disease while minimising disruptions to cross border trade.
Mr. Mkenda was briefing a delegation from the EAC Secretariat led by the Deputy Secretary General in charge of Planning and Infrastructure, Eng. Steven Mlote, whose delegation was on an assessment mission to the Mutukula border.
The team is set to review the progress of the joint efforts by Tanzania and Uganda to ease congestion at the border.
Mr. Mkenda informed the Deputy Secretary General that the Covid-19 testing requirements for truck drivers were meant to ensure that health risks associated with the coronavirus were mitigated.
The EAC delegation also met and held discussions with the truck drivers at the border in a bid to assess the challenges encountered when crossing the border. During the discussions, some of the drivers registered their dissatisfaction with their treatment in implementing new measures put in place to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
On his part, Eng. Mlote told the truck drivers that Ministers and Permanent Secretaries responsible for Trade, Health and EAC Affairs have held meetings and issued guidelines on how the truck drivers should be facilitated on their cross border operations as Partner States enforce measures to fight Covid-19.
The DSG emphasised the need to to sensitize people against stigmatization of Covid-19.
“Parameters have been set, places where the testing should take place and modalities of how it should be carried out has been agreed upon by the Partner States’ governments. It is only implementation that is varying from one country to another,” he said.
He disclosed that EAC issued administrative guidelines for uniform implementation of measures to allow free movement of cargo as envisaged under the EAC Common Market Protocol.
“The EAC Secretariat has been at the forefront in ensuring that the region is prepared and ready to deal with epidemics, pandemics, disasters and events of public health interest. The Secretariat, under the EAC Mobile Laboratories Project, mobilised resources and has deployed mobile laboratories for each of the Partner States to facilitate rapid detection of highly pathogenic organisms such as Ebola, Marburg and Coronavirus,” added Eng. Mlote.
To date, mobile laboratories, PPEs (Personal Protection Equipment) and test kits (including COVID-19 kits) have been delivered to the Republic of Rwanda, Republic of Burundi, Republic of Uganda, the United Republic of Tanzania, Republic of Kenya and the Republic of South Sudan.