East African heads of state have agreed to use digital trackers for cargo lorry drivers as part of measures to help curb the spread of coronavirus in the region.
The decision comes at a time of increasing concerns in the region over high numbers of long-distance drivers testing positive for Covid=19 at countries’ borders.
“The heads of state noted that information sharing is key during a crisis such as the Covid-19 pandemic,” read part of the statement.
So far, drivers’ movements have not been restricted in the region since they are considered essential workers as they transport goods such as food and medication across East Africa.
Last month, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni dismissed the possibility of stopping drivers from entering the country.
“We need the cargo. We need the goods. But at the same time we don’t want the disease… So don’t touch the driver, and the driver should not touch you,” he said.
Attending the video conference were leaders of four member countries: Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan.
Conspicuously, their counterparts from Tanzania and Burundi were not present.
Tanzania has been criticised for not taking stricter measures to fight the spread of coronavirus in the country, an allegation that the government denies.
Last week, former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga told South Africa’s public broadcaster SABC last week that regional neighbours could close borders with Tanzania if the country did not impose tougher measures to fight the virus.
On Monday, Zambia closed its border with Tanzania after recording 86 new cases of coronavirus at the Nakonde border crossing. The health minister said 74 of the people who tested positive were either truck drivers or sex workers.