President Museveni has held a video conference meeting with heads of East African countries in regards the issue of truck drivers and the spread of Coronavirus in which it was agreed that a regional mechanism for testing is worked upon.
The consultative meeting on Tuesday morning was also attended by Presidents Paul Kagame(Rwanda), Uhuru Kenyatta(Kenya) and Salva Kiir from South Sudan.
According to the joint communiqué released shortly after the meeting, the regional heads took note of the current status of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic and commended ministers responsible for health, trade, transport and East African affairs for their initiative of adopting a regional approach to the problem.
“The heads of state decided that partner states adopt a harmonised system for certification and sharing of covid-19 test results,” the joint communiqué read in part.
“The heads of state directed the focal persons to immediately work on a regional mechanism for testing and certification of truck drivers prior to their departure at the point of origin and every two weeks report to the heads of state.”
The regional heads noted that information sharing is key during a crisis such as the covid-19 pandemic and directed the ministers responsible for health, trade, transport and East African affairs to finalise and adopt an East African digital surveillance and tracking system for drivers and crew on covid-19 for immediate use by partner states.
In the meeting, the East African heads of state noted the efforts by partner states in undertaking bilateral engagements to address cross-border challenges.
“The heads of state noted that the region’s key economic sectors are experiencing a slowdown as a result of the covid-19 pandemic, such as agriculture, trade, manufacturing and industry, tourism, hospitality and entertainment and directed partner states to prioritize regional value/supply chains to support local production of essential medical products and supplies including masks, sanitizers, soaps, coveralls, face shields, processed food, ventilators as part of efforts to combat covid-19 in the region.”
Tanzania’s Magufuli absent
The meeting by East African heads of state was however not attended by their Tanzanian counterpart, John Pombe Magufuli.
No reason was given in the joint communiqué as to why Magufuli was not present but the development comes only a few days after the Tanzanian president dismissed imported testing kits that he said returned positive results on samples taken from a goat and a pawpaw.
“There is something happening. I said before we should not accept that every aid is meant to be good for this nation,” Magufuli said, adding the kits should be investigated.
The Tanzanian president recently suspended the country’s director for National Health Laboratory and quality manager pending investigation.
Truck drivers have continued to be a cause for worry in the spread of the deadly coronavirus pandemic in the region.
For example in Uganda, 54 of the current 122 confirmed coronavirus cases are truck drivers.
Several other countries in the region have also shared the same agony.
President Museveni on Saturday said they will soon get a medicine for the problem of truck drivers.
“We want the drivers to be tested by joint teams of the four countries. We don’t want them to be tested at the borders now, we want them to be tested from their origin,” he said during the second National Day of Prayer against Covid-19 at State House in Entebbe.
In the region, Kenya with 700 cases leads the pack whereas Tanzania at 509, Rwanda, 285, Uganda, 122 and South Sudan 156 follow in that order in terms of confirmed coronavirus cases.