Uganda to conduct free COVID-19 tests to ease border trucks traffic

15Jan 2022
Kampala
The Guardian
Uganda to conduct free COVID-19 tests to ease border trucks traffic

THE East African Community (EAC) has said Uganda has committed to conduct free COVID-19 rapid tests at the Kenya-Uganda border points of Busia and Malaba for seven days to clear the truck traffic snarl-up that has disrupted intra-EAC trade on the northern transit corridor.

A statement issued by the EAC headquarters in Arusha, Tanzania said the move follows a joint multi-sectoral virtual meeting of the ministers responsible for EAC affairs, health and transport convened by the EAC secretariat.

Currently, over 4,500 trucks have stalled at the two border posts due to the mandatory COVID-19 testing requirement introduced by Uganda on Decemcer 20, 2021, said the statement.

The statement said the meeting noted that this was a deviation from the 14 days COVID-19 testing period, previously agreed at the regional level and monitored through the Regional Electronic Cargo and Drivers Tracking System (RECDTS).

The multi-sectoral ministerial meeting agreed that member states should always notify each other in case of any deviations from the agreed protocols relating to measures against COVID-19, said the statement.

“This will mitigate the impact on movement of goods, persons, workers and services across the region,” said Adan Mohamed, chair of the EAC Council of Ministers and Kenyan cabinet secretary for the Ministry of EAC and Regional Development.

Last week, the East African Business Council (EABC) urged the East African Community (EAC) partner states to adopt and implement the bloc’s coordinated approach on pandemic to eliminate COVID-19 related non-tariff barriers and spur trade.

The council called upon EAC partner states to mutually recognize COVID-19 test and vaccination certificates through the EAC Pass and eliminate the need for confirmatory testing and quarantine for persons with valid COVID-19 test and vaccination certificates.

The council was concerned that the newly introduced COVID-19 mandatory testing of truck drivers entering or transiting through Uganda highly hampered the smooth flow of cargo across the region.

The new measure mandated truck drivers to pay USD 30 COVID-19 test each time they cross into Uganda increasing the cost of doing business and resulting in traffic pile up at the border posts plus increased turnaround times and demurrage charges.

The East African Business Council also urges partner states to embrace the Regional Electronic Cargo Driver Tracking System (RECDTS) to accommodate the emerging COVID-19 trends as it offers minimal disruptions to the private sector, especially the transport and logistics sector.

Launched in 20020, RECDTS is designed as a mobile phone application and will enable the issuance of the EAC COVID-19 digital certificates that are mutually recognised by partner states, thus eliminating need for multiple testing as well as contributing to alleviating on-going congestion at East Africa border crossing points.

RECDTS provides a surveillance system to monitor long distance truckers’ crew health and enables contact tracing.

It allows partner states to electronically share truck drivers’ COVID-19 test results; therefore, minimising need for multiple COVID-19 tests in a single trip.