enya Transporters Association (KTA) has asked the Ministry of Health to include transit truck drivers in the ongoing first phase of COVID-19 vaccination along teachers, nurses, police and senior citizens among others.
In a statement addressed to the Ministry of Health, the KTA secretariat said that truck drivers owing to their nature of work and movement was a vulnerable group. When the region reported its first cases of COVID-19, truck drivers were super spreaders because of a spike in the numbers among themselves, leading to huge interruption in the cargo movement across the region.
“We appreciate the government’s efforts in ensuring the orderly vaccination of the most vulnerable sections of the society. We also understand that the total population cannot be vaccinated at the same time because of the current limited resources,” the statement said.
It added; “It is our opinion that truck drivers, especially those travelling to other partner states be included in this group of the most exposed individuals to COVID-19 because of their interactions with various groups of people.”
Apart from embracing various protocols by the regional states, East Africa Community (EAC) introduced the Regional Electronic Cargo and Drivers Tracking System (RECDTS) to issue common electronic COVID-19 certificates.
Speaking during the World Trade Organisation Aid for Trade stocktaking conference recently, Mr Alban Odhiambo, the TradeMark East Africa (TMEA) senior director for trade environment, said that at least 72,900 truck drivers across the East Africa region have been registered by the App. The software is available on the Google Play Store and monitoring at least 90 percent of truck drivers across East Africa.
TMEA partnered with key agencies, including the Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Associations (FEAFFA), to develop the App to address serious delays at border posts lasting for up to 2 weeks.
The App was launched in September 2020 by the EAC Secretariat in partnership with TMEA and the European Union, which has been key in the fight against Covid-19, especially among cross border traders.
“Since we launched the App in September 2020, over 72,900 drivers have downloaded it. This represents over 90 percent of cross border trade drivers in the entire EAC,” Mr Odhiambo said, adding that whereas the current App was built in English, there are ongoing efforts to localise it in languages spoken widely in EAC such as French and Swahili, among others.
During the initial days of the COVID-19 pandemic, truck drivers were super spreaders and because of their cross-border movements, they faced many challenges to move around the region since EAC had not adopted common protocols on how to deal with COVID-19 pandemic.
Prior to the roll-out, cross border truck drivers had been spending many days in long queues at border posts, which had disrupted both trade and movement of goods, services and people.
The RECDTS is part of TMEA’s $23m Safe Trade Emergency Facility that seeks to support governments in the region to undertake critical measures along the transport and trade routes.
Mr Frank Matsaert, the TMEA chief executive officer, said because Covid-19 is going to be around for some time, it was important that the region focuses on long-term recovery measures to support trade.
Kenya Transporters Association (KTA) Chief Executive Office Mr Dennis Ombok, in a recent interview said that most of the drivers have now gained smart phones and the system has eased border crossing.
Whereas it took up to 10 days to get tests on manual systems, the COVID-19 tests once carried out allows the driver to continue with the journey and in case the test turns positive, they are quarantined in the next test point.