Kenya and Tanzania have agreed to conduct mutual Covid-19 tests for truck drivers crossing the border so as to ensure seamless movement of cargo and trade.
In a statement signed by the Transport Cabinet Secretary (CS), James Macharia and his Tanzanian counter-part, Eng. Isaac Kamwelwe on Friday in Namanga town, the two countries agreed that truck drivers from both sides will be tested for COVID-19 before commencement of their journeys at the point of origin using standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The truck drivers who have been tested will then be issued with a 14-day COVID-19 free certificate by competent authorities, which should be mutually recognized by the two countries.
It was agreed that each vehicle will only be allowed to carry up to three crew members and a conducive place where the crew can stop for a rest should be identified and equipped with necessary amenities.
The two countries will also have designated stop points at which the drivers will undergo random testing and results relayed to the public without mentioning the nationality of those found to be positive.
In case one of the vehicle crew is found to be at high risk of COVID-19 the owner of the vehicle shall be allowed to replace all crew and the vehicle allowed to proceed.
Both countries further agreed to commit to revive and operationalize the cross border meetings. Citizens who undertake agricultural activities on either side of the border will be allowed access to their farms subject to being identified by the local leaders.
Speaking after signing the agreement, CS Macharia, said the containment measures agreed upon with Tanzania would ensure trade and movement of good between the two countries continues uninterrupted in the wake of the pandemic.
“The measures agreed upon with Tanzania include testing of truck drivers at their point of origin followed by issuance of COVID-19 free certificates, designation of separate resting areas for drivers, among others. These will facilitate seamless movement of goods within the two countries” said Macharia.
The CS further urged for both countries to ensure that safety health measures are adhered to with focus on the fight against the spread of Novel Corona Virus disease as set out by World Health Organization (WHO) for business to thrive.
“It is fundamental that every truck driver is tested using WHO standards before beginning his journey and issued with a Covid-19 free certificate that will be valid for 14 days ” he said.
He emphasized that economic cooperation between the two countries is key fast tracking development among the two Nations.
“Through the border of Namanga lots of jobs have been created and require smooth flow of goods with Kenya benefitting from value addition capabilities of various products due to wide range of industries that are in the country.” Said the Transport CS.
Macharia added that the installation of a mobile laboratory at the Namanga One Stop Border Post (OSBP) will ensure efficiency and quick service delivery.
Truck drivers have previously had to wait for over five days before they are tested and cleared causing congestion at the OSBP.
“In the next few days, services will flow with ease because we will no longer require the samples drawn from the truck drivers to be taken to Nairobi, they shall be collected and tested right here and results relayed in 5hours at most hence there will be no congestion at the facility.” He said.
On his part, the Tanzania Transport Minister, noted that movement of goods was vital in ensuring the economies of both countries continue to grow.
He emphasized that both nations will test their own nationalities and issue them with Covid-19 free certificates so that they can be allowed to pass through the border within the relevant 14 days and when the two weeks validity period ends the driver will have to undertake another test again.
” Any truck driver found to have been infected with Covid-19 will be taken back to his country due to our different ways of the set up of quarantine facilities whereby in our country we allow self-quarantine and in Kenya it is a different setup.” Kamwelwe said.
The East Africa Business Council CEO, Dr. Peter Mathuki called upon the two countries to embrace cooperation in efforts to cushion trade and battle Covid_19.
“It is important that we design a coordinated approach to cushion the economies of our nations and think about recovery post Covid-19.40% of businesses here depend on the flow of business at the Namanga OSBP.” Said Mathuki.
Tension between the two countries had been brewing for the past week after President Uhuru Kenyatta on May 16 closed the country’s border with Tanzania to curb cross-border transmission. Only trucks ferrying cargo were exempted on condition that the truck drivers undergo compulsory COvid -19 tests.
However, some government officials from Tanzania responded by announcing that they will not allow trucks ferrying cargo from Kenya to enter their country.
Truck drivers from Kenya were barred from entering Tanzania at Namanga,Isebania and Holili border points threatening diplomatic relations.
By Rop Janet