CROSS-BORDER TRADE

Covid-19 testing stepped up at Malaba as traffic stretches 70km

Stakeholders in the transport sector blame slow Covid-19 testing for the traffic jam.

In Summary
  • Part of the plan to clear the cargo trucks’ traffic snarl up, the Star has established, entails deploying health officials on the Kenyan side of the border.
  • Uganda, in the arrangement, will also double the number of health workers at its Covid-19 testing centres at the border from the current 50 to 100.
A long queue formed by cargo trucks along the Malaba-Webuye highway at Kocholya area on January 15, 2022.
DEADLOCK: A long queue formed by cargo trucks along the Malaba-Webuye highway at Kocholya area on January 15, 2022.
Image: EMOJONG OSERE
The traffic jam that is presently stretching for over 70 kilometres has persisted since January began when truckers went on strike. This was between Kocholya market and Amagoro town on January 15, 2022.
LONG WAIT: The traffic jam that is presently stretching for over 70 kilometres has persisted since January began when truckers went on strike. This was between Kocholya market and Amagoro town on January 15, 2022.
Image: EMOJONG OSERE

Kenya and Uganda have agreed to step up testing for Covid-19 at Malaba border as the two countries move to clear cargo trucks on the Malaba-Webuye highway.

Currently, a huge gridlock of cargo trucks along the highway stretches to over 70km. Stakeholders in the transport sector blame slow Covid-19 testing in Malaba for the traffic jam.

Part of the plan to clear the traffic snarl up, the Star has established, entails deploying health officials on the Kenyan side of the border to conduct rapid Covid-19 tests on truckers crossing into Uganda.

Results for the rapid tests are received almost instantly.

Uganda, in the arrangement, will also double the number of health workers at its Covid-19 testing centres at the border from the current 50 to 100.

According to the Kenya Transporters Association, introducing rapid testing for coronavirus and increasing the number of health personnel testing for the respiratory disease at the border will raise the number of truckers being cleared to cross the border per day.

KTA said in a statement signed by the association’s chairman Newton Wang’oo this will ease the traffic snarl up along the busy Northern Corridor.

The resolution to step up coronavirus testing at the border was arrived at following an extraordinary crisis meeting for ministers responsible for EAC Affairs, Health and Transport on Friday to review the situation.

The traffic jam has persisted despite last week’s decision by Uganda to suspend a Covid-19 testing fee, which the East African country introduced in late December for truckers.

Introduction of the fee led to a strike by the truckers who claimed it was discriminatory and exploitative.

The truckers called off the strike on Tuesday last week after 11 days.

Friday’s EAC inter-ministerial meeting also agreed that cargo drivers with negative Covid-19 certificates from Kenya will be allowed to cross the border into Uganda.

This is contrary to an earlier arrangement where truckers were required to undergo mandatory coronavirus tests in Malaba, Uganda, whether they possessed valid Covid-19 test certificates or not.

KTA said health ministers from the East African Community will meet separately on a date to be communicated to propose new Covid-19 protocols to be adopted by member states.

The largest fraction of cargo leaving Kenya for Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo and South Sudan passes through Malaba.

The border clears between 600 and 1,000 cargo trucks every day.

It is mandatory for truck drivers to test for Covid-19 after every 14 days.

Only truckers with valid coronavirus negative test certificates are allowed to cross the border.

Those with expired certificates are required to be tested at the border before being allowed to proceed with the journey after receiving their results.

Truckers who test positive for the respiratory disease are isolated.

Edited by Henry Makori