Tanzania has rejected Kenya’s Covid-19 tests, including those from mobile labs donated by the East African Community (EAC), in the latest escalation of a diplomatic spat that threatens trade between the region’s two biggest economies.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Tanzania said Kenyan truck drivers who show up at the border with health certificates clearing them of Covid-19 would be subjected to a second test before being allowed to cross the border.
While Namanga border is equipped with a mobile test kit donated by EAC, Tanzanian officials are collecting samples from Kenyan truck drivers for retesting at a national laboratory in Dar-es-Salaam, about 727 kilometres away and 11-hour journey by road.
“We have deliberately taken this decision in order to protect our citizens against any Covid-19 infections from the neighbouring country as well as making sure our general populations stand in good health as we prepare to receive tourists when high tourism seasons reopens come this June 2020,” said Tanzania’s Arusha regional commissioner Mrisho Gambo.
The move is in apparent retaliation to Kenya, which has closed its border with Tanzania, allowing only cargo trucks whose drivers pass mandatory Covid-19 tests. It threatens to slow the Sh61.5 billion-a-year trade between the two states.
Among the goods commonly traded between the two countries are raw agricultural produce as well as manufactured items like cooking oils, soaps, perfumes, cosmetics, toiletries and cement.
Kenya had by Wednesday barred more than 126 Tanzanian drivers found to be Covid-19 positive from entering the country at various border points including Holili, Isebania, Namanga and Taita Taveta.
On Saturday, Kenya closed its borders with Tanzania and Somalia to stop the importation of coronavirus into the country with an exception of truck drivers.
“The agreement by all member States is that cargo will be allowed to move without restrictions and this has been the case until this pandemic came...the truck drivers must undergo a coronavirus test,” said EAC and Regional Development Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohamed during a briefing on Tuesday.