The Uganda government caves in to criticism and suspends border COVID testing.
To alleviate the traffic jams caused mostly by truck pileups at the Malaba and Busia land borders, the Ministry of Health announced on January 15 the suspension of obligatory COVID-19 testing for truck drivers and passengers, which was scheduled to begin on December 20, 2021.
“Given the poor failure performance of antigen RDTs among non-symptomatic individuals and the continued build-up of trucks on the Kenyan side of the border creating another super spreader scenario,” the ministry statement said.
Truck drivers and other persons traveling through border points were obliged to pay US$ 30 (Shs 100,000) at the time of entry for a Covid-19 test. The rule sparked complaints from truckers who stopped their trucks at the border, generating 70-kilometer-long traffic jams.
Despite the Covid testing waiver, truck clearance at the Busia and Malaba crossings remains very delayed. According to Stephen Muhwezi, head of the Haulage Corridor East African Professional Drivers Association, there is still a traffic jam.
“We began entering without testing; someone knocked down the cargo-scanning equipment, causing a further delay since vehicles cannot enter without being scanned.” “The trucks still extend as far as 60 kilometers for Malaba and 30 kilometers for Busia, where the majority of gasoline tanks travel,” Muhwezi remarked.
The truck snarl has caused a near-fuel crisis in the nation. Petrol prices have risen from Shs 4,000 to between Shs 4,900 and Shs 6,000 per liter. Surprisingly, according to Muhwezi, vehicles transporting gasoline are not signaled thru at border crossings swiftly enough.
“There is no way that gasoline trucks can be given precedence since even cargo containers are on demurrage (a price paid for the use of a container beyond the stipulated period), so we must stick to the line,” he said.
Only drivers experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms, such as high temperatures, are checked for free and permitted to continue their travels, according to Muhwezi. The EAC Pass, an app that unifies all EAC partner states’ Covid 19 exam results, sends test results to their mobile phones.
“We are still unsure what will happen after the seven days we have been allotted end, but if required testing is reinstated, we will press the brakes once again.” “We are still attempting to arrange a meeting with the Minister of Health and other authorities in order to chart a course ahead,” Muhwezi added.
The interim waiver is anticipated to be revisited during the East African Ministerial Conference this week. As truck drivers protested from Kenya into Uganda last week, the East African Community (EAC) Secretariat chastised regional governments for failing to respect their agreements on Covid-19 management.
One such promise is the nations’ reciprocal acceptance of the Covid-19 test findings, provided the test is performed inside a member country by an approved laboratory. However, in the aftermath of a dramatic increase in new infections, several partner countries, notably Uganda, returned to their national policy.
Last weekend, truck drivers began stopping their trucks at the border in protest of Uganda’s mandate to pay US$ 30 for a test. In December, the Ugandan government issued a decree requiring all entering visitors, including truck drivers, to be tested at the point of entry.
On January 1, truck drivers from Kenya, mostly Kenyans, protested the instruction, particularly the test price of Shs 100,000 each time they cross the border, even tho the fee was dropped from an original fee of 100,000. Aside from the expense of the exam, the drivers claim that the method has significantly increased the time required to complete border formalities, making business more costly.