Uganda removes truck drivers from COVID-19 count, reduces national tally

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FILE PHOTO: A woman hawks merchandise past transit trucks at Mpondwe border that separates Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Mpondwe, Uganda. REUTERS/James Akena/File Photo

Uganda’s Ministry of Health reduced the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country following an order by President Yoweri Museveni to strike off all foreign truck drivers from the country’s case count.

According to the ministry, Uganda now has 145 confirmed COVID-19 cases compared to the Africa CDC figure of 264 as of May 20.

Uganda had previously shifted its initial position and began adding positive tests from neighbouring countries in its tally and treating such cases locally in accordance with World Health Organisation guidelines.

“Following a Presidential Directive of deducting all foreign truck drivers from Uganda’s case count, the confirmed COVID-19 cases now stand at 145,” the ministry said in a tweet.

The ministry made the announcement even as it confirmed 10 new COVID-19 cases, the majority of them of truck drivers.

“Today, 20 May, 10 new COVID-19 cases confirmed. 9 new cases are truck drivers while 1 case is a contact to a confirmed truck driver,” the ministry tweeted.

The ministry also said that a total of 124 foreign truck drivers had been handed back to their respective countries since the issuing of the presidential directive. It, however, did not state their nationalities.

Cross-border transmission of the coronavirus has emerged as a concern in the East African region with truck drivers identified as high-risk individuals. Uganda has been particularly vocal about this problem with the government coming under pressure to take action to stop importation of the virus.

Museveni, during a previous address, said that he was aware of much Ugandans were hostile to the policy of allowing the truck drivers to continue to enter and leave Uganda as the number of COVID-19 cases from truck drivers continued to rise.

He however, said that blocking the movement of cargo drivers into and out of Uganda would be “suicidal and more self-hurting” as Uganda needed that cargo for its survival and prosperity.

Kenyans and Tanzanians form the majority of truck drivers who have tested positive for COVID-19 while attempting to enter Uganda.

Uganda had also threatened to have trucks from outside sanitized at the border point and then handed over to a Ugandan driver who would take the vehicle to the final destination if in Uganda or the next border point. However, a group of Kenyan truck owners protested against the regulations and petitioned the Ugandan government to take a softer stance.

In response to this, Kenya announced strict measures to have truck drivers regularly tested while Tanzania has so far not made any public anouncement.

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