East African Community calls for free movement of goods amid COVID-19 battle

A medical staff member measures a man's temperature as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus on his arrival of repatriation in Gatumba, on border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), in Burundi, on March 18, 2020. (Photo by ONESPHORE NIBIGIRA / AFP)
Passengers arriving on international flights leave the international arrivals lobby after they have been screened and cleared for any symptoms of the novel coronavirus at Entebbe Airport, Uganda, on March 3, 2020. © 2020 Sumy Sadurni/AFP via Getty Images

The East African Community (EAC) on Thursday announced a number of resolutions designed to help member states which are battling to halt the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

This follows an Extra-Ordinary Meeting for the Sectoral Council of Ministers of Health on the COVID-19 pandemic to prevent and stop any further spread of the disease in the region.

In a statement, the EAC noted that the region had a total of 91 confirmed cases in four member states with only Burundi and South Sudan not registering any positive cases yet. That number has since risen to 94 after Kenya on Thursday confirmed three new cases.

One of the resolutions is the facilitation of free movements of goods and services in the region. Uganda and Rwanda had already announced the closure of their borders to prevent the unnecessary movement of people in and out of their countries.

However, the EAC outlined certain conditions for this movement to take place. Each crew must comprise of 2-3 people who are in good health with a backup in case they are found to be high-risk or positive. The crew must also declare its final destination and only stop at designated points.

Member states were also urged to establish a surveillance system to monitor the crew’s health and enable contact tracing.

In relation to this, member states embassies were directed to coordinate their citizens who may have been affected by the border closures so that they may be able to reach their final destination within the region.

The EAC further directed member states to implement strict screening procedures at border points and maintain the mandatory 14-day quarantine for all travelers to the region.

EAC countries were also urged to offer additional emergency and contingency funds in response to the pandemic and invest in public health systems.

Furthermore, EAC countries were directed to support local companies to ensure the local production and availability of essential products which are part of the coronavirus response.

Member states were also directed to link their national task forces on the COVID-19 and identify a focal member to ease communication between the countries and the EAC Secretariat.

Face-to-face meetings of the bloc’s officials remain suspended for the foreseeable future with officials encouraged to use modern technology to hold their meetings.