Uganda deploys more health officers at Malaba, Busia borders

Uganda deploys more health officers at Malaba, Busia borders
A picture showing people crossing through the Busia One-Stop border post. [Photo: Courtesy]

The Ugandan government has deployed more health workers at the borders of Malaba and Busia, increasing the number of personnel from 50 to 100 to relieve the congestion of trucks.

On the other hand, the government of Kenya has supported these efforts by deploying COVID-19 rapid diagnostic test (RDT) kits and over 15 support staff to help Uganda’s efforts.

The revelation came up at the 3rd Joint Multi-Sectoral Virtual Meeting of Ministers of EAC Affairs, Health, and Transport, which was held last week.

However, Uganda has vowed to recognise COVID-19 test certificates from Kenya’s Ministry of Health for 72 hours, regardless of whether PCR or RDT testing protocols were used.

The meeting resolved that Uganda should speedily relieve the backlog at the borders to solve the delay caused by time spent at the borders of Malaba and Busia.

It was further resolved that Kenya should provide the necessary manpower and equipment to speed up testing and clearing of the borders.

The EAC Secretariat was directed to call a follow-up meeting to set long-term solutions to ease mobility across regional borders.

Free test

Last week, Ugandan authorities offered to conduct a free COVID-19 test to free up the two borders from truck backlogs in the northern corridor.

Since the introduction of mandatory vaccination by the Ugandan government on December 20, 2021, more than 4,500 trucks have been held at Malaba and Busia borders pending COVID-19 testing of their drivers before crossing into Uganda.

The meeting noted that it was an inconvenience to the 14-day COVID-19 testing period agreed and monitored through the regional electronic cargo and driver tracking system (TECDTS). It was agreed that partner states must notify themselves in case of any deviation from protocols on COVID-19 safety measures.

“This will mitigate the impact on the movement of goods, people, workers and services across the region,” said the Chair of the EAC Council of Ministers, Adan Mohammed. 

The consideration of COVID-19 certificates was prioritised, with 14 days of validity for fully vaccinated drivers and 72 hours for unvaccinated drivers.

The partner states were also urged to implement EACPass to expedite the verification of negative 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 easily be accessed on a mobile phone.” It is set to ease the turnaround time at border points, ” said Dr. Peter Mathuki, the EAC Secretary-General. 

Traffic snarl-up

Long queues started to build up at the border towns of Malaba and Busia on January 1, 2022, after the announcement of mandatory vaccinations came into effect. Then the drivers threatened to stop using the northern corridor for transporting cargo to Uganda.

 “I did the COVID-19 test at the Inland Container Depot in Nairobi and I have a valid certificate, which is still valid for seven days. Why am I forced to get tested again?” Mohammed Mahmud, a truck driver, told the East African.

In her new directive, Uganda called for the review of the Regional Electronic Cargo and Drivers Tracking System (RECDTS), stressing that the Omicron variant has a short incubation period and is highly transmissible.

The Kenya Transporters Association (KTA) called for the Ugandan government to revoke their order, or they would stop transporting cargo to and through Uganda.