Out of the 28 new coronavirus cases that Kenya recorded on Monday, nine were truck drivers who had reported back into the country from Tanzania.
This latest statistics showed the highest coronavirus tally among truckers ever recorded in Kenya in under 24 hours, a notable trend of the growing incidents among this group.
And the rising cases among this group have not gone unnoticed as the Ministry of Health has employed new efforts and stringent measures aimed at isolating the infected truck drivers from the roads.
“We have launched new protocols for the truck drivers along transport corridors to Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and even Somalia to curtail the spread of the coronavirus,” said acting head of public health Dr Francis Kuria.
“We all know that truck drivers have been recognised as a major risk factor. These protocols have been agreed upon by the neighbouring states,” said Mr Kuria.
As mandatory Covid-19 testing every 14 days and one crew member per truck rule continued to be enforced, the Ministry of Health has moved to establish checkpoints and more testing laboratories. The 16 laboratories on transport corridors and across the 11 counties are set to ease the testing process for the drivers and help the ministry to track and isolate positive cases. The laboratories include mobile testing clinics in Eldoret and Mlolongo.
The drivers are expected to take the tests 48 hours before the journey begins, and every 14 days. The drivers are also required to carry an attestation letter from the Ministry of Health indicating that they have tested negative.
Additionally, the ministry has set-up 12 checkpoints along the major long-haul transport corridors. These places will be used to take temperature readings of the truckers and to record any visible coronavirus signs and symptoms and refer suspected cases to the nearest hospitals.
The checkpoints will also be used to collect all the details of the truckers for easier contact tracing, and monitor compliance with use of masks.
These designated areas will additionally be used to generate reports on if the drivers have made stops at other checkpoints during their journey.
“For any truck drivers who embark on a journey, they must have taken the Covid-19 tests to enable their movement along the transport corridors with ease,” said Mr Kuria.
The ministry has also set-up designated hotels, where the drivers can sleep or have meals during their journey.
Interestingly, drivers along Busia and Mombasa, Malaba Mombasa, Namanga to Nairobi, Isebania/Kisumu to Nairobi routes have designated hotels they can access during transit while truckers on Malaba Nairobi route have no appointed eateries.
The only point where drivers on this route will be expected to stop is at the checkpoint in Webuye.
Truck drivers emerged as a key group after attention grew over the consistent worrying numbers of positive cases from Kenya and Tanzania that had been recorded in Uganda.
While Uganda continued to report one or zero cases from its communities, the situation was different on tests done on the truck drivers coming from Uganda and Tanzania.
On April 24, for instance, Uganda recorded 11 new cases all of whom were truck drivers, with five from Kenya and the rest from Tanzania. This has called for a collective effort by the East Africa Community member states.
“Even with the Covid-19 negative test, another sample will be taken again at the border points. A driver will continue with their journey, however, should the results turn out positive because maybe they picked the virus along the way then tracing and immediate isolation will be the next step,” said Mr Kuria.
On Monday, Uganda announced five new coronavirus cases bringing the total confirmed cases to 121. The new cases were all truckers, with three from Kenya.