Leaders of four East African Community (EAC) member nations have agreed to new measures for truck drivers, spurred by the coronavirus pandemic and the frequent crossing of regional borders.
The presidents of Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and Kenya say they’re coordinating a plan to have drivers tested and certified at their points of origin before they depart, with additional routine testing conducted every two weeks.
Their decisions come as Uganda announced four new COVID-19 cases among 1,478 samples taken from truck drivers. The Ministry of Health said the four drivers included a Kenyan and a Tanzanian alongside two Ugandans.
“We are working to minimize the economic hardship on our citizens, while protecting their health. But this will be more effective … if we act in concert with one another,” said Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who chaired the virtual meeting held Tuesday.
They’ll also implement a COVID-19 digital surveillance and tracking system to monitor truck drivers and crews, the four leaders said in a communique.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and the other EAC leaders noted the importance of keeping borders open and goods moving during the pandemic, while seeking to balance the public health risks and the costs of keeping their struggling economies open.
Amid the slowdown, the EAC said it needs to prioritize local production and distribution of COVID-related medical equipment, such as masks, hand sanitizers, face shields, mechanical ventilators and food.
Presidents John Magufuli of Tanzania and Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi did not attend the meeting, though they are EAC members. Tanzania’s neighbors have been frustrated with Magufuli’s response to the crisis, with Zambia closing its shared border on Monday in order to curb the coronavirus spread.
Image: Government of Kenya