Rwanda has adopted one of the toughest but best option of relay driving where for example a truck driver from Uganda stops at the border, the truck is sanitized and it's handed over to a colleague in Rwanda to transport it to its destination
By Brian Kisomose
Uganda is among the East African countries with very few reported numbers of COVID -19 patients. Currently, Uganda has 160 cases of people who are positive most of them being truck drivers, 55 recovered and no death has been registered.
This can be explained by the measures that the has country opted to enforce among them being the imposition of a lockdown, banning public transport, restriction of movement of private vehicles, and closing the airport in as far as the transport sector is concerned.
What still remains as a big challenge is the truck drivers, according to the ministry of health the new cases that have been registered are among the truck drivers. It's evident that Uganda is a landlocked country thus we rely on neighboring countries to import and export goods which implies that we still need to rely on them.
Arguments have been advanced that if they are stopped from entering the country the economy will suffer which raises a big question as to whether we should trade health for a good economy.
Rwanda has adopted one of the toughest but best option of relay driving where for example a truck driver from Uganda stops at the border, the truck is sanitized and it's handed over to a colleague in Rwanda to transport it to its destination, the other option being offloading the goods at the border and loaded onto another truck within Rwanda for onward transit.
Trucks felling goods entering Rwanda via Mirama Hills border have been stopped by the Rwanda government and I implore the rest of the countries not to be shy about it. It's time we faced reality. If Rwanda has done so irrespective of the negativities that may be put forward about this measure such as it is expensive and time-consuming for the sake of protecting citizens it's a better option.
It will not serve any good if citizens adhere to guidelines of the lockdown and the numbers keep increasing and the victims being truck drivers but when serious measures are not being taken. If the reason behind not implementing this measure is for the good of the economy, then Ugandans should also be allowed to continue operating their businesses with guidelines in place such as wearing masks and washing hands with soap and sanitizers .H.E the president lamented that Ugandans love money in one of his addresses to the nation but it looks like our government too is not any different when it comes to revenue collection.
H.E the president also implored us to keep quiet "Tusilike" an analogy he used to emphasize the point of staying home to fight the enemy since it is war as he calls it to know where the "enemy" was coming from but it seems we do not have the necessary artillery to fight the enemy having discovered that it's truck drivers who are "the enemies "It's not proper to isolate or criminalize victims or patients of COVID -19 but if the government does not come out to find a long-lasting solution to this loophole citizens are going to consider them as the source of continued suffering and the reason as to why the lockdown will be extended in as much as the cases of those who test positive are still increasing.
It's reported that Dr. Diana Atwine the permanent secretary for the ministry of health urged the public to ensure that the truck drivers reach their destination without diversion but this wouldn't be necessary if they are screened at the border before entry. Tracking drivers after leaving the border has proved not to be very effective since some of them are not willing to disclose all their contacts and by the time the contacts are tracked down if found chances are that they have infected others.
We appreciate the fact that deliveries, especially of essential supplies, should not be delayed but this should not be used as a pretext to let the drivers go without knowing their status, of what importance will it be to deliver essential supplies to Ugandans while infecting them with the virus. Escorting the truck drivers in a convoy to ensure that they reach their destination without making any diversion or unnecessary stopovers in not effective as well.
Most of these trucks are not in the perfect mechanical condition given the variation in the make, model and maintenance history, assuming a convoy is composed of 50 trucks chances are that they may not move at the same pace and some may even break down along the way, and does this imply that the convoy will stop.
With the health ministry bringing on board the use of GeneXpert machines for testing truck drivers at border points where results can be got within 45 minutes, I hope and pray that it's not defeated with an argument that it will cause congestion at the border thus exposing the drivers who may not be positive to the virus but in my opinion resorting to relay driving, water transport, and railway may be the best option to fight COVID -19.
The writer is a practicing Advocate in courts of law