he government has acquired new reagents to test more truck drivers at the Malaba and Busia border crossing points, lack of which was blamed for a serious congestion and truck snarl up at these posts.
Dr. Kevit Desai, Principal Secretary, State Department of East African Community (EAC), Ministry of EAC due to a global shortage of the reagents, in the wake of a huge demand, Kenya has not been spared the twist and was not able to get reagents needed until recently.
He announced this recently when he attended Malaba Border post during the weekend, where the length of the queue stretched for up to 30 kilometers at Malaba border post at some point in the past 3 weeks.
Truck drivers at Malaba had been seeking tests in Uganda at a cost of US$ 65 after testing at Kenyan border was hit by the shortage and closed down the shop. In the event that a certificate expires when a driver is still held at the border points, and they were not willing to pay for tests in Uganda they would be forced to go back to Mai Mahiu.
The Regional Electronic Cargo and Driver Tracking System (RECDTS) which was launched last month has been transmitting electronic Covid 19 certificates for the registered drivers. However, a few challenges that have been reported by the users of the system are currently being addressed by the developers and industry stakeholders in EAC.
The system is expected to be in use in all the EAC Partner States – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda – and extended to EAC neighboring countries particularly the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
The task of ensuring that imported goods reach consumers lies in the hands of truck drivers; and as the coronavirus spread in the region, the transit corridors were identified as conduits for the spread of infections. In efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19, the health authorities developed protocols requiring truck drivers to be tested.
RECDTS is expected to resolve some of the challenges that were being experienced in execution of health protocols including: Multiple testing of truck drivers at border crossing as there lacked a framework of mutual recognition; Documentary fraud; where truck drivers would forge national certificates and use them to cross borders.
Conflicting test results was also a common challenge – this would happen when the same driver tested in one country having negative results, would be declared positive after being tested again in another country.
RECDTS is designed as a mobile phone application and will enable the issuance of the EAC COVID-19 digital certificates that are mutually recognised by Partner States, thus eliminating the need for multiple testing as well as contributing to alleviating ongoing congestion at East Africa border crossing points.
RECDTS provides a surveillance system to monitor long distance truckers’ crew health and enables contact tracing. It allows Partner States to electronically share truck drivers’ COVID-19 test results; therefore, minimizing the need for multiple COVID-19 tests in a single trip.
Some of the delays have caused tail backs of trucks measuring tens of kilometres in some cases. The development of EAC app with funding from European Union, Global Affairs Canada, Danida, Finland, Netherlands and United Kingdom through TradeMark East Africa was in accordance with the directive given by the 1st Joint Ministerial meeting of EAC Ministers responsible for Health and EAC Affairs.
Speaking during the roll out, the EU ambassador to Kenya H.E Simon Mordue said “A common approach to tackling the threat of Corona Virus to the East African Community’s economy is paramount. The RECDTS platform is an example of this solution, as it enables several ministries of health in the region to work together in stemming the spread of the virus across borders.”
He also noted that the RECDTS will provide an efficient, transparent and accessible way to support the formal trade across the EAC borders and will help in sustaining the EAC economies, now and in the near future.