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Uganda’s Failure to Stop Truck Drivers Triggers Social Media Backlash

The highest number of cases was recorded last week when 11 truck drivers tested positive in just one day. Yesterday, another four truck drivers from Tanzania, tested positive pushing Uganda’s COVID-19 Caseload to 79.
File Photo ; Truck drivers undergoing test at mobile weighbridge located at Luweero Station. The Luweero Weighbridge has since been closed over COVID 19 pandemic
Several Ugandans are calling upon the Government to stop truck drivers from entering Uganda in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.   The calls come amid an increase in the number of truck drivers who have tested positive to COVID-19, many of who were transiting through Uganda from Kenya and Tanzania, on a journey to South Sudan. 

The highest number of cases was recorded last week when 11 truck drivers tested positive in just one day. Yesterday, another four truck drivers from Tanzania, tested positive pushing Uganda’s COVID-19 Caseload to 79. 

However, the Ugandan government has allowed drivers to continue driving through Uganda while waiting for their results from the Uganda Virus Research Institute. Those who test positive are then tracked along the route and isolated at the various health facilities. 

But Ugandans have now started a campaign pushing the government to stop the truck drivers from entering Uganda.  Many are proposing that the movement of trucks is suspended for at least two weeks to allow leaders across the region to come up with a regional strategy to tame the virus. 

Dr Pius Jadwar, one of the campaigners says that however much the truck drivers are keeping the regional supply chain intact, allowing them to move freely, is putting Ugandans at risk. “Remember all the new Coronavirus cases are not within, they are all coming from the borders through the truck drivers, it’s our concern as citizens of Uganda to raise our voices,” Jadwar says. 

Stella Kanyike, another of the campaigners advises that drivers should wait for their results from the border, and only those who test negative should be allowed to cross through Uganda. Many of the campaigner’s demand that truck drivers should be tested for COVID-19 from their countries or even before entry in order to guarantee the safety of Ugandans. 

“We cannot carry their burden. We are already suffering in this lockdown period we don't need more troubles, and we do not want the country to regret,” one of the supporters of the campaign wrote. The same view is held by Emmanuel Mukiibi, another of the people in support of the campaign.  

Brian Matovu proposes that the government can hold the truck drivers until their test results are complete, and “we can use some of the donated relief COVID-19 money to buy tents for them and take some posho and beans for them there”.

The campaigners are worried that because of the new infections, among truck drivers, the lockdown will be extended further.  President Yoweri Museveni announced an extension of the lockdown until May 5, 2020. At the time, Infections in Uganda stood at 55 people Majority of who, have been discharged.  

Over the weekend, the National COVID-19 Taskforce agreed that all trucks entering Uganda will have only one person on board for the next four weeks in a move to control the movement and exposure of Ugandans to foreign truck drivers. Countries like Rwanda have also adopted the relay system. 

The move is welcomed by Mary Serumaga, who said that relay driving would work in stopping truck drivers, since they can then switch-over at the borders to avoid new returnee cases.