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Coronavirus creeps along East Africa’s trucking corridors

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Nairobi (AFP) – Each day hundreds of trucks fan out from East Africa’s main ports in Kenya and Tanzania carrying cargo to the landlocked hinterland, and fears are rising they are changing actual into a foremost vector for the coronavirus.

Their drivers derive at truckstops, weighbridges and customs elements, socialising at motels, restaurants and with intercourse staff who ply the busy routes linking the port cities of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

With most East African worldwide locations underneath strict restrictions to curb the coronavirus, truck drivers are amongst the few allowed to drag as they ferry important items across the achieve.

On the opposite hand, border checking out has revealed a excessive number of cases amongst the drivers and difficulty is rising over their likely to be superspreaders.

“It is stagger… the final sources of the disease are the truck drivers within Uganda and the achieve,” Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said earlier this month.

Uganda has performed thousands of tests on truck drivers, with 51 — a mix of Tanzanians and Kenyans — chanced on to be carrying the virus. The nation has a total of 122 recorded cases.

Rwanda has for three weeks said its case numbers — at imprint 285 — “reflect a upward thrust in cases of detestable-border truck drivers and their assistants”, without detailing how many like been infected.

Truck drivers like additionally examined sure in Kenya, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

– ‘They are able to unfold it a ways’ –

Osborne Ndalo, a clinician in Mombasa with the North Star Alliance, which runs smartly being clinics at truck stops, said one Kenyan driver who examined sure on the Ugandan border become once chanced on to like infected a lover at one pause in Kenya, besides to up to about a others he interacted with along the avenue.

“What makes the drivers a difficulty team is mobility… They attain into contact with of us from plenty of regions, from plenty of backgrounds,” he urged AFP.

Ndalo said he believes drivers are spreading the virus “worthy additional, we manufacture no longer even know”, as checking out is miniature.

Uganda’s smartly being providers and products director Dr Henry Mwebesa said the intercourse switch become once an added difficulty.

“An infected truck driver can infect a intercourse employee by mere contact, and the virus spreads no longer most efficient amongst the drivers but the communities round too if they accept in contact with inappropriate surfaces.”

This pattern harks assist to the unfold of HIV/AIDS, which severely impacted truck drivers in the achieve.

“They must be cautious, they are able to unfold it very a ways,” said Nicholas Mbugua, secretary general of the Kenya Prolonged Distance Truck Drivers Association (KLDTDA), which is working exhausting to coach the drivers on handwashing and social distancing.

Kenya has now ordered drivers passing in either path across the border to score a certificate proving they like got examined hostile for the virus, and contain a nasal swab test every two weeks.

– Traffic, relays and protests –

Museveni said stopping trucks from entering the nation might presumably perchance be “suicidal” for Uganda, which love many of its neighbours has no accept entry to to the ocean or rail transport for imports and exports.

The crisis has resulted in a panoply of fresh measures at borders across the achieve which might presumably presumably be disrupting switch and main to days-long queues and protests.

Uganda’s checking out regime has viewed truckers caught in long queues on the border, every once in a while for days.

“It be too problematic, we’ve lots of traffic lasting up to about a to four days,” said Hussein Juma, 43, from Mombasa, along side that truck drivers were additionally being stigmatised and called names equivalent to “corona”.

Uganda has additionally banned drivers from pulling in at historical stopover elements, designating wanted stops the achieve they are registered and examined, and their vehicles disinfected.

The nation is mulling enforcing a relay system on the border the achieve a driver would hand over to a Ugandan driver on the border.

Rwanda has already place aside the system in goal, with all trucks offloaded and sanitised earlier than being handed over to Rwandan truck drivers.

“Among the truck drivers that extend from our neighbouring worldwide locations manufacture no longer assuredly like holding equipment and elevate out no longer abide by the protection pointers to self-isolate, wear a conceal” and so on, Abdul Ndarubogoye, chairman of the Rwanda Truckers Association, urged AFP.

‘Archaic hyperlink’ Tanzania –

Rwanda imports mainly thru Tanzania — and to a lesser extent Kenya through Uganda — and its rules like irked Tanzanian drivers who like protested on the Rusumo border publish, blocking off their colleagues from Rwanda from entering the nation.

“It be love the East African worldwide locations are no longer trusting every other in the scheme in which each and each and each handles COVID-19,” said Tanzania Truck Homeowners Association board member Rahim Dossa.

Tanzania is viewed as an outlier in the achieve over its going thru of the crisis, coming underneath fireplace for concealing data on the number of cases and failing to use strict ample measures.

Vehicles from Tanzania largely transport cargo from the port of Dar es Salaam to Zambia, the DRC, or to Kenya the achieve its tea is auctioned in Mombasa.

On the opposite hand the nation is most efficient checking the temperatures of drivers on the border.

This week Zambia shut its frontier with Tanzania after noting a excessive number of cases in its border metropolis Nakonde.

“If one nation is a faded hyperlink then we aren’t doing worthy with this strive against against COVID-19,” said Ndalo, the Mombasa clinician.

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