Business people, students and other travellers crossing from Uganda to Tanzania have a reason to smile after interstate buses were cleared to resume normal operations.
The buses had halted operations in March when the government closed the common borders and banned public transport to curb the spread of Covid-19, which has so far claimed more than 140 lives.
Travellers who enter Ugandan through Mutukula border post using the interstate buses usually come from the neighbouring countries of Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and Zambia.
So far, four buses belonging to Friends Safaris out of the bus companies that ply the Kampala- Bujumbura route or Kampala –Bukoba –Dar-es –Salaam route have resumed operations, according to Mr Peter Magara, an immigration officer at Mutukula border post.
“Buses that are transporting people and their luggage were previously 10, but they are now four. However, we expect other buses to resume operations gradually as government continues to ease the lockdown,” Mr Magara said last week.
However, Mr Magara said all passengers have to present negative Covid-19 test certificates.
“They [passengers] are also supposed to present a certificate showing that they are yellow fever free,” he explained.
Bus transport has, however, resumed at a time when the Gene Xpert machine that tests Covid-19 at Mutukula border is still grounded.
The machine stopped working four months ago after health workers at the border ran out of cartridges.
Last week, MPs on the Presidential Affairs committee led by Adjumani Woman MP Jessica Ababiku visited Mukutula border and wondered why the government had delayed to provide the cartridges needed for the machine.
“It is really absurd that the machine has not been working for all these months. You ought to write to the Ministry of Health so that we make a follow up,” she advised.
Ms Ababiku said if people are tested and they spend about three days waiting for their results without being isolated, it can increase the rate of infection.
Capt Medard Nabimanya, an officer at Mutukula border, said when the Gene Xpert machine was still operational, everything moved on smoothly as Covid-19 results would be out in one hour.
“We need the machine to ease our work. Some traders come with perishable commodities and need urgent clearance,” he said.