Truck drivers safest contacts during Covid-19, says CS - Beaking Kenya News

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Saturday, 4 July 2020

Truck drivers safest contacts during Covid-19, says CS

A truck driver has his sample taken as EAC minister Adana Mohamed [in pink shirt] watches at the Miritini Covid-19 testing centre in Mombasa on Friday.

Truck drivers are among the safest people you can interact with amid the Covid-19 pandemic, EAC and Regional Development CS Adan Mohammed has said.

Mohamed said this is because they are tested every 14 days. The CS said the stigma against the truck drivers is unjustified.

He spoke at the Miritini Covid-19 testing centre where he launched a Covid-19 awareness and safety campaign in collaboration with the Northern Corridor Transit and Transport Coordination Authority.

The campaign targets truck drivers and will involve distribution of 10,000 face masks and reflector jackets along the corridor from Mombasa to Busia and Malaba.

The drivers, led by Kenya Long Distance Truck Drivers and Allied Workers Union chairman Roman Waema, said stigma is the biggest challenge they face when on transit.

Waema said some counties like Machakos do not allow them to stop at their designated resting places saying “we have corona and will spread it to their people”. 

“Sometimes we are forced to drive for over four hours without stopping, going as far as 400km, just because people do not want us to stop in their neighbourhoods,” Waema said.

Driver Sudi Mwatela said police officers also harass them, sometimes confiscating their Covid-19 certificates and other vital travel documents unless they part with bribes. 

He said in Eldoret, sometimes they are forced to undergo mandatory tests for which they are charged Sh1,500.

“If a father does this to their own son at home, what will that son undergo at the neighbour’s place?” Mwatela asked.

Waema said the stigma has been exacerbated by remarks made by senior officers in government.

“Those who are supposed to protect us from this stigma are the ones fuelling it. It is sad,” he said. 

Transport CS James Macharia once said cargo should be transported via the SGR because allowing truck drivers to transport it increases Covid-19 spread.

However, CS Mohamed said the government is working to address the concerns.

For instance, he said some of the roadblocks along the corridor will have to be removed.

“Drivers are the most important people in building an economy,” he said.

The CS, however, noted that not all concerns will be addressed immediately because they involve different governments.

For example, the request to have the drivers tested once every month instead of twice a month will be a tall order. "Some of the directives were not proposed by Kenya." 

He noted other countries also have their own concerns and an agreement must be reached by all EAC member states before adoption.

Mohamed said he will speak to his Health counterpart Mutahi Kagwe to ensure testing of truck drivers for Covid-19 is fast-tracked.

He said this will help reduce turn-around times and prevent long traffic jams at border points.

Kenya Transporters Association CEO Dennis Ombok said the delay in testing ad releasing of results has increased turn-around times.

It used to take an average of four days to make a return trip to Kampala, Uganda, but since Covid-19 and the testing requirement, the same trip now takes an average of 14 days.

“Going to Rwanda and coming back to pick another cargo used to take an average of eight days. Now that has increased to 20 days,” Ombok said.

Mombasa Health executive Hazel Koitaba said the delay in release of results is caused by a lack of adequate testing and sample collection kits. 

She, however, said some unscrupulous drivers are making fake Covid-19 certificates.

Regional and Northern Corridor Development PS Margaret Mwakima said the NCTTCA has developed guidelines that will help establish resting stations along the Northern Corridor.

She said the guidelines include having proper resting stations that will have wellness centres, proper resting places and restaurants where drivers will have their fatigue and health status checked and addressed.

Koitaba said Mombasa has so far tested about 4,030 truck drivers out of which 32 tested positive. 

She said the 100 drivers tested a day will be increased once the county is able to secure more kits. 

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