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EAC Council of Ministers issue Directives to curb Covid-19

The  East  African Community (EAC) through the Sectoral Council of Ministers Responsible for Health has issued directives to control spread of Covid-19 in the region.

During  the 4th Extra-Ordinary Meeting held  on Wednesday last  week  via video conference, the Council of Ministers directed all partner states to continue implementing mandatory quarantine for 14 days for all travellers to the region and avoid imported cases by applying strict screening procedures at all border points.

The  Ministers noted that as of 24th March, 2020 the region had reported several confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania in four out of the six partner states. There were no confirmed cases from South Sudan and Burundi.

The  forum called for suspension of EAC regional face-to-face meetings and urged EAC Organs and institutions to utilize Modern Technology such as video-conferences, Webinars and Skype Calls for holding meetings until the situation is contained.

The  Council further directed partner states to implement 100 percent exit and entry screening by applying the multilayer mechanisms to avoid any loopholes such as transit of passengers.

Additionally, the council resolved to facilitate free movements of goods and services in the region. However, the partner states will guarantee that trucks or vehicles have only two or three crew members per vehicle.

The ministers also laid emphasis on the health of crew members, noting that upon screening if anyone is found to be at high risk or positive to COVID-19, the truck will be decontaminated before being allowed to continue to its final destination and the crew members quarantined for 14 days according to the set national guidelines. Crews for cargo planes and vessels will be determined by the specifications of the aircraft or ship and the set international guidelines.

“Truck drivers are required to declare their final destinations and are urged to stop only at designated points along the transport corridors so as to limit chances of spread of COVID-19 during transit,” read part of the joint signed statement.

All  the partner states  will also establish a surveillance system to monitor crew health and enable contact tracing. Any affected crew will be quarantined at a government designated hotel for the period of their stay.

Likewise, the East African Health Research Commission (EAHRC) was directed to synthesize and conduct research on COVID -19 to inform the partner states on new technologies, advances in care and treatment, vaccines, behaviour of the virus and diagnostic trends so as to inform policy and practice in the region.

The  Ministers also urged partner states to support local companies, facilitate local production and availability of key consumables and all products used in COVID-19 response, including hand sanitizers, medical products and soap.

Overall, the council of ministers directed partner states to provide additional contingency and emergency funds to address gaps in prevention and other interventions to mitigate impact of COVID-19.

They further urged EAC secretariat and each partner state to mobilize resources, invest in public health systems to ensure resilience and health security.

The Cabinet Secretary for East African Community and Regional Development, Adan Mohamed signed the joint statement for Kenya.

By  Hilary Mongera

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