EAC health ministers in joint containment plans

27Mar 2020
Polycarp Machira
The Guardian
EAC health ministers in joint containment plans

​​​​​​​EAST African Community (EAC) member states have intensified the war against Convid-19 with ministers responsible for health issuing a joint communiqué after a video conference on measures to take to reduce the spread of the virus in the region.

Ummy Mwalimu

In a joint statement on Wednesday on the preparedness and response in the EAC region, the six ministers from the member states directed all partner sates to continue implementing mandatory quarantine for 14 days for all travelers to the region and avoid implementing strict screening procedures at all border points.

This came after health ministers of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania conferred in multiplex arrangement, to share existing knowledge and information on Covid -19 outbreaks.

They also intended to deliberate on the Covid-19 pandemic, map out containment strategies to stem its further spread in the region.

The ministers noted that of Tuesday this week the region had reported a total of 91 confirmed cases with Rwanda having 40 cases, Kenya with 25 cases, Uganda (14) and Tanzania (13). South Sudan and Burundi had no confirmed cases of the disease.

They resolved to maintain the suspension of EAC regional meetings and urged EAC organs and institutions to use video-conferences, webinars and skype calls for holding such meetings until the pandemic is contained.

They directed the partner states to scrupulously implement exit and entry screenings via a multilayer mechanism to close loopholes such as in transit traffic or passengers.

Ummy Mwalimu, the Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, said at a press conference here that the ministers resolved to facilitate the free movement of goods and services in the region.

Partner states were asked to ensure that trucks/vehicles carrying goods have just two or three crew members, to facilitate smooth border crossing.

Crew members must be in good health, be screened and if found to be at high risk of positive for Covid-19, the truck will be decontaminated before it is allowed to continue to its final destination and crew members will be quarantined for 14 days, in line with the set national guidelines.

In the event that the crew is quarantined while on transit, truck owners will make necessary arrangements to backup crew to ensure that goods are delivered to the intended destination.

Truck drivers are required to declare final destination and are urged to stop only at designated points along the transport corridors so as to limit chances of spreading Covid-19 during transit.

The crew for cargo planes and vessels will be tied to specifications of the aircraft or ship and set international guidelines, and the crew will be quarantined at a government designated hotel for the period of their stay.

“The ministers have also directed the partner states to establish a surveillance system to monitor crew health and enable contact tracing,” she said.

The EAC ministers resolved to strengthen information sharing by press conferences and linkage of national taskforces to facilitate quick response, continuous reporting and facilitating contacts on potential Covid-19 exposed persons.

Partner states will identify a focal person with the national taskforce to facilitate communication between the partner states, between partner states and the EAC secretariat for Covid-19 responses, she added.

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