Dar es Salaam. Truck drivers will now undergo mandatory Covid-19 tests before they leave the country, The Citizen has learnt.
The decision was reached during a meeting that brought together transport operators and officials from the Health ministry.
The Tanzania Association of Transporters (TAT) and Tanzania Truck Owners Association (Tatoa) have confirmed the development.
“It is true. Beginning on May 18, truck drivers will be tested before picking up cargo from Dar es Salaam port. They will then be issued with a 14-day clearance certificate,” the TAT chief operations officer, Mr Hussein Wandwi, told The Citizen yesterday.
Efforts to reach senior Health ministry officials proved futile yesterday.
But the Tatoa spokesperson, Rahim Dosa, said the meeting - chaired by a senior official from the Health ministry who deals with epidemics - concluded that truck drivers must undergo the testing before they leave the country as a way of preventing further spread of the Covid-19.
“So, the testing exercise will be conducted at the national health laboratory at Mabibo in the city, starting May 18, 2020. A driver would be tested and issued with a clearance certificate before going to pick up cargo at the port,” he said.
According to TAT, the decision was in line with what was agreed by the Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Association (FEAFFA) as a way of limiting spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The decision comes at a time when hundreds of truck drivers have been stranded at some border crossingpoints, including Namanga, Tunduma and Rusumo.
Some 300 Tanzania truck drivers who have been stranded at Mbala Township close to Nakonde at the Tunduma border between Tanzania and Zambia complained yesterday that the place lacked social services, including hotels and shops.
The truck workers chairman in the Southern Highland Zone, Mr Abubakari Hussein, asked the governments of Zambia and Tanzania to find a swift solution to the temporary border closure so as to end the predicament that his colleagues were going through.
The chairman for clearing agents at the Tunduma border with Zambia, Mr Waziri Msangi, said they will not give in to attempts to allow only essential products to move to Zambia at the expense of most of the other products that must also pass through the same border crossing.
In Arusha, members of the East African Legislative Assembly (Eala) blamed the slow pace at which the Covid-19 testing at the border is being done to be behind the crisis.
“There is a huge number of cargo trucks. This would not have been the case if the testing were speeded up,” said George Odongo, a lawmaker from land-locked Uganda.
He told a consultative meeting on the impact of the pandemic in the region that the testing gear against the viral disease must be changed to cope with the demand.
Mr Odongo - who is the Chair of Eala Ugandan Chapter - was presenting the findings of a survey carried out by MPs from his country on the impact of the pandemic.
He called on the medical authorities in the East African Community (EAC) states to change the virus testing kits at border crossings to avoid unnecessarily long queues.
He stated through a video conference that Uganda will soon introduce a gadget able to detect Covid-19 viral infection and give the results within 40 minutes.
An Eala MP from Tanzania Dr Abdullah Makame said the team of Tanzanian lawmakers had been to the Lungalunga, Holili, Sirari, Namanga and Mutukula border towns.
He told the meeting that Tanzania, like other EAC states, had taken requisite measures to intensify the fight against Covid-19, dealing a blow to the economies.
The task was being coordinated by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) through the National Response Team comprising officials from the critical sectors.
Aden Noor (Kenya) called on the governments to cooperate in order to minimize crisis on the borders due to stranded cargo vehicles.
The EAC has repeatedly insisted that movement of goods and services should continue across the borders even with restricted movements due to Covid-19 outbreak.
Reported by Rosemary Mirondo in Dar, Stephano Simbeye in Songwe and Zephania Ubwani in Arusha
Get your digital newspaper here: www.egazeti.co.tz