Truck Drivers Blamed For Spread Of COVID-19 In East Africa.

The number of coronavirus cases remains relatively low in East Africa, but health officials note that border crossings— through which truck drivers pass daily with essential goods — have become hot spots for coronavirus contagion.

While most of East Africa has been under varying degrees of lockdown, truck drivers are the heartbeat of regional trade who trek frequented routes in the region as essential workers.

Borders between East African countries including Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, and Kenya have become sites of confusion, chaos, traffic queues and protests as truck drivers face an onslaught of new, temporary COVID-19 restrictions.

Kenya: Mandatory testing

Kenya has implemented mandatory COVID-19 testing at the Namanga border with Tanzania, causing massive delays and leaving drivers stranded with perishable goods.

As of May 14, least 33 truck drivers have tested positive at the border between Tanzania and Kenya in the town of Namanga.

dispatches an emergency medical team to border to undertake mandatory testing for truckers at the crossing as concerns mount over transmissions from the neighbouring country.

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Kenyan truck drivers who tested positive were allowed to enter Kenya and self-isolate but Tanzanian drivers were denied entry and were forced to return home. It is unclear whether they were taken to health facilities to self-quarantine for 14 days or were expected to self-isolate at home.Kenya’s health minister Mercy Mwangangi said that aside from porous borders, “truck drivers are becoming the other weak link in the fight against the virus,” as reported in The Citizen, a Tanzanian daily.

Truckers from Kenya must now present a certificate to prove that they are coronavirus-free before leaving or entering Kenya at entry points.

Kenyan officials are considering closing the border with Tanzania to curb the spread of the virus, but no decisions have been made at this time.

Rwanda: Delays and protests

In early May, Tanzanian truckers were not happy when they arrived at Rwanda’s Rusumo border with essential goods and were told to hand over their trucks to new drivers upon arrival.

This “relay” measure was put in place by Rwandan authorities who saw an increase in virus cases among truck drivers. The directive led to reported bursts of violence at the Rusomo border, which was later debated on Twitter:

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