Residents of Namanga in Kajiado County have appealed to the government to restrict movement of truck drivers at the border town as they await COVID-19 test results.
The residents said the truck drivers do not stay in one place as they wait to be tested and continue to mingle with the locals even as they wait for their results which take around four to five days thus exposing them to the risk of contracting Coronavirus.
Keria ole Mentina, a resident of Namanga, urged the government to assign the truck drivers a specific area where they can stay as they await Covid-19 clearance certificates so that they do not mingle with the residents.
Mentina said the truck drivers plying the Kenya-Tanzania route eat at the hotels in the town and sleep in the lodgings as they await their results thus putting the residents at the risk of exposure.
“The truck drivers who tested positive here have been mingling with residents. They ate at the hotels here, slept in lodgings for three to five days as they waited for the results. Many people could have been exposed to the virus. All truck drivers must be quarantined at one place as they wait to be tested,” he said.
John Motonga, a businessman at the town reiterated Mentina’s remarks adding that the business community were also at a high risk of contracting the virus as they serve all customers from both Kenya and Tanzania and it was hard to pinpoint who has the virus and who does not.
He called on security officials to tighten security at the border as citizens from both countries continue to conduct trade through illegal routes.
“Business is still going on as usual, despite the border being closed .We sell to truck drivers here who are awaiting clearance only to find out later that one of them has corona. The government should ensure that the drivers stay in one place until they receive their results so as not to infect others,” Motonga
Another resident Alex Meritei called for mass testing of Namanga residents adding that he feared many people have already been exposed to the virus.
Meritei said the truck drivers are normally in contact with many people as they move from one place to another while awaiting clearance and mass testing would ensure that those already infected are isolated and quarantined so as to stop further spread of the virus.
He urged locals to observe the Ministry of Health guidelines to keep Corona at bay adding that many people do not observe social distancing or wear face masks properly.
Some of the truck drivers we spoke to admitted that they were free to roam around the border town as they await Covid-19 clearance and this was also putting them at risk as they mingle amongst themselves.
The truck drivers from Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi said they stay together as they await to be tested a process which takes days as the samples have to be taken to the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) in Nairobi for analysis.
They called on the government to speed up plans to install a mobile Covid -19 laboratory at the border Post so as to shorten the waiting period.
Abdi Yusuf, a Tanzanian truck driver revealed that the truck drivers eat and sleep in one place apart from interacting with locals making it easier for the virus to spread amongst themselves.
Yusuf said he has been at the border town for three days now and his results had been taken to KEMRI Nairobi and he will be forced to wait for two more days to know his fate.
He added that the long waiting period was exposing both the truck drivers and residents at the risk of infection and called for an expedited process so as to ensure that transmission of the virus is curbed.
“I have been here for three days now, I was just tested and I have to wait for two more days for my results. As I wait here I could be exposed to the virus as I do not know who has corona and who does not,” said Yusuf.
Yusuf added that a mobile laboratory if stationed in the border town could help reduce the risk of transmission as the waiting period will be shortened.
Kenya’s border towns of Namanga, Kajiado, Holili and Isebania in Migori have recorded a high number of positive cases from the truck drivers with 182 being denied entry into the country.
Kenya on Wednesday received two mobile laboratories and testing kits from the German government through the East Africa Community.
The East Africa Community Cabinet Secretary Adan Mohammed said the labaratories which will be deployed at the Namanga and Isebania border points would increase the country’s testing capacity thus address the snarl up at the borders.
The mobile laboratories have a capacity to test over 2000 samples in a day.
As of May 21, the number of Coronavirus cases in Kenya rose to 1109 after 80 more people,the highest number recorded so far, tested positive.50 people have so far succumbed to the virus.
By Rop Janet