Testing truck drivers for Covid-19 using Genexpert machines has caused delays and long queues at borders since their results are released before they enter the country.
The rapid testing system is one of the new measures aimed at reducing the spread of the pandemic.
Previously, truck drivers would enter the country before their results are released which increased community infections.
By yesterday, Uganda had registered a total of 260 cases, majority of which are from truck drivers from neighbouring countries.
Mr Peter Mugisha, the Kisoro Resident District Commissioner, said although testing truck drivers at Kyanika and Bunagana border posts with Rwanda and DR Congo respectively, is going on smoothly, the results are delayed.
“The challenge is that the results take long to be released. When samples are collected from the truck drivers at Bunagana and Kyanika border posts in Kisoro, they are taken to the Uganda Virus Research Institute for testing and the process takes about two to three days,” Mr Mugisha said.
“There is need for establishment of regional testing centres to quicken the process of delivering results to truck drivers before they leave the border post. Sometimes the results come when the tested truck drivers have already returned to their respective countries,” he added.
Local leaders on the South Sudan- Uganda border note that the drivers are rowdy and impatient.
“We are implementing the directives but our biggest challenge is the truck drivers are always in a hurry. They think we are the ones delaying their results. Many of them are arrogant, rowdy and chaotic,” Mr James Nabison Kidega, the Lamwo Resident District Commissioner, said.
Mr Kidega added that they have provided counselling services to help drivers cope with the situation.
Mr Kidega also said residents had also congested the border, demanding testing, putting the district at risk of registering more infections.
At Mirama Hills, the border with Rwanda in Ntungamo District, drivers have to hand over their trucks to others stationed at the border in Rwanda or load them on another truck based in Rwanda.
“Trucks are currently being held at Mirama border because of the strict measures the Rwanda government has introduced. Those measures are not friendly to some of these drivers, that is why there is a fleet of trucks parking there for more than a week,” Mr George Bakunda, the Ntungamo Resident District Commissioner, said.
A truck driver tested positive on Sunday and is admitted to Mbarara Regional Referral Hospital.
Dr Celestine Barigye, the hospital director, said they expect to have Genexpert machine at Mirama Hills.
Mr Edward Muwanga, the Kyotera District health officer, said testing truck drivers at Mutukula border has eased their work because cases can be detected early.
“We no longer have to trace a positive transit cargo truck driver like it has been before. We also don’t expect them to mix with the community hence the virus can now be contained at the point of entry,” Mr Muwanga said. However, he noted that Kasensero landing site, which also borders Tanzania, is a risky area since fishermen regularly interact with Tanzanians.
“In the past days, we have tested these fishermen and fortunately, no one was found positive. We have now started testing the masses over the weekend. We hope that the Genexpert machine at Mutukula will help us,” Mr Muwanga said.
Col Milton Rahuka, the Uganda Revenue Authority south-western customs regional manager, said six truck drivers tested positive at Mutukula border last Friday.
“If one is found positive, the health teams of both countries get in touch and they decide whether to admit them to hospitals in Uganda or Tanzania,” Col Rahuka said.
However, authorities at Malaba border have not yet received the Genexpert machines.
Mr Boniface Obbo, the in charge Malaba border post, said after samples have been taken from the truck drivers, they are given stickers and followed up later if they test positive.
“Things will change after operationalisation of the installed Genexpert machine,” Mr Obbo said.
The Bunyangabu District Covid-19 taskforce has banned truck drivers from parking in the district. “We have roadside markets at Rwimi, Bunjojo (on Fort Portal-Kasese road) among others that attract truck drivers to stop to buy food, this should stop,” Ms Jane Asiimwe Muhindo, the Resident District Commissioner, said last week. “Our security forces should take note, they (drivers) have designated places at Hima in Kasese and at Mubende where they have facilities for parking and security,” she added.
Reported by Polycap Kalokwera, Alfred Tumushabe, Ambrose Musasizi, Mudangha Kolyangha, Joseph Omolo, Perez Rumanzi, Felix Ainebyoona, Robert Muhereza, Moris Mumbere, Felix Basiime, Robert Atiku, Scovin Iceta & Rashul Adidi.