Uganda said it was increasing health officers at the Busia and Malaba borders posts, from 50 to 100, as part of efforts to clear the backlog of trucks at the border posts.
Dozens of trucks laden with petroleum products and other goods have been stationed at these borders due to delayed covid-19 testing triggering a low supply of fuel in Uganda which has led to price hikes and immediate protests.
The delay of trucks was largely caused by Uganda’s rejection of Covid-19 test certificate issued by Kenya government. However, after the impasse, Uganda has agreed to recognise the Covid-19 test certificate that shall be issued by Kenya’s Ministry of Health with a validity period of 72 hours using either PCR or RDT testing protocols.
Kenya, on her part, informed the 3rd Joint Multi-Sectoral Virtual Meeting of Ministers of EAC Affairs, Health and Transport held on Friday of the availability of sufficient Covid-19 rapid diagnostic test (RDT) kits and staff to support Uganda in Covid-19 testing at the border posts.
Kenya affirmed readiness to immediately deploy 15 or more health workers and provide RDT test kits to enhance Covid-19 testing at Malaba and Busia border posts.
The meeting that was chaired by Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for EAC and Regional Development, Hon. Adan Mohamed underscored the need to minimize administrative delays to enhance rapid clearance of the existing backlog at Malaba and Busia borders. They noted that the current trend of clearing truck drivers was not sufficient to clear the truck backlog.
The Cabinet Secretaries/Ministers commended the Republic of Uganda for progress made in implementing the directives made on 10th January, 2022 and urged Uganda to increase her capacity of testing truck drivers to facilitate faster clearance of goods.
The meeting urged the Republic of Kenya to support the process by providing additional workforce and equipment to expedite the testing and clearance process.
The Cabinet Secretaries/Ministers directed the Secretariat to convene a follow-up meeting of the Ministers/Cabinet Secretary of health to discuss the long-term solutions to easing cross-border movement.
The Friday meeting was a follow-up to the 2nd Joint Multi-Sectoral Virtual Meeting of the Ministers/Cabinet Secretaries responsible for EAC Affairs, Health and Transport that was held on Monday, 10th January, 2022. At the time, more than 4,500 trucks had stalled at the two border posts due to the mandatory Covid-19 testing requirements introduced by Uganda on 20th December, 2021.
The 2nd Joint Multi-Sectoral Virtual Meeting noted that this was a deviation from the 14 days Covid-19 testing period, previously agreed at the regional level and monitored through the Regional Electronic Cargo and Drivers Tracking System (RECDTS).
To mitigate future recurrence of the border traffic impasse, the 2nd Joint Multi-sectoral Meeting further directed Partner States to recognize certificates from accredited/national recognized laboratories with a validity of 14 days for fully vaccinated truck drivers and 72 hours for unvaccinated truck drivers moving goods across the region.
Further, they agreed that Partner States should implement the EACPass to fast-track verification of Covid-19 test results.
“The EACPass is a system that integrates all EAC Partner States’ negative test results for Covid-19 and those vaccinated, and can be easily accessed on mobile phone. It is set to ease the turnaround time at border points,” said EAC Secretary General Hon. (Dr.) Peter Mathuki.
The 21st Meeting of the Sectoral Council of Ministers responsible for Health further approved the EACPass as a regional platform to facilitate movement of all persons in the region and beyond and also directed EAC Partner States to facilitate the implementation and use of the EACPass as a platform for quick verification of Covid-19 test certificates and vaccination status for travellers.