Transport

Truckers’ Covid-19 test impasse resolved on EAC ministers talks

trucks

Long-distance trucks form a queue at Sikata on the Webuye-Kanduyi-Malaba highway in Bungoma County. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Long-distance transporters have suspended their strike after Uganda government halted mandatory Covid-19 test of truck drivers at its borders following the East African Community (EAC) member states' inter-ministerial meeting on Monday.

The meeting of the line ministries in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan held to resolve the current impasse at borders agreed that Uganda allows all trucks with negative Covid-19 results from member countries to continue with their journey.

“Resolution by Ministerial-level meeting held on 10 January to resolve the impasse at Kenya borders with Uganda resolved that Ministry of Health Uganda to recognize Kenya results uploaded in the Regional Electronic Cargo and Drivers Trucking System (RECDTS),” read part of the communique from the meeting.

In the meeting, the ministers agree that Uganda authorities immediately conduct antigen tests for free to all drivers currently in the traffic to clear the backlog which is expected to last seven days.

However, it was agreed that the reality on the ground will guide the period needed to clear the backlog.

The four ministers also agreed that all countries to follow the current EAC protocols and that Uganda should not revert to the 72-hours validity period of the result until all EAC countries have discussed and agreed.

“All countries confirm that fully vaccinated drivers should have their negative results valid for 14 days and that a follow-up meeting to be held on January 14, 2022, to review the situation,” said the statement.

Minister of Health Uganda also agreed that any cost of testing in future should not be paid by the driver or transporter but by the importer.

Following the above agreement, Kenya Transporters Association Limited (KTA) sent a communication to its more than 5,000 members who were on strike to resume their journey.

“While appreciating the difficult circumstances and hardship that our drivers go through, we request everyone to end the strike but remain vigilant as we monitor the implementation of the resolutions,” said KTA chairperson Newton Wang’oo.

“We wish to advise transporters and drivers to proceed with their journeys and cross the borders to Uganda as we continue to engage the stakeholders.”

Transporters have been on a go-slow since early this month where they parked their trucks and sealed off the road, vowing not to cross into Uganda until the government harmonises their positions, scraps the $30 Covid-19 test charges or scraps the mandatory testing like the other EAC states.

A crisis meeting called by Uganda’s Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja had tasked the ministers of Health and East African Community (EAC) Affairs to study the drivers’ concerns and make recommendations to the ministerial committee that was seeking to end the strike.

The chairperson of the Uganda Freight Forwarders Association, Hussein Kiddede, had urged Kampala authorities to find a balance between containing health pressures and economic needs.

“I think we should focus on a common EAC approach as opposed to each country going it alone,” he said.

The member states agreed that drivers who have been tested for Covid-19 in any member state be given a certificate whose validity is 14 days, and that those with valid certificates are free to move within the EAC region.

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