Mitigating the Covid 19 crisis at the trade Border Points

The corona virus outbreak which began in late 2019 has evolved rapidly and globally and has been classified as a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). The surge in the spread of the virus has led to border management agencies to play a critical role in averting the situation. In Kenya,Over 5000 confirmed cases of COVD-19 were recorded in Kenya as of June 2020.

The Ports of entry and exit are areas highly affected by corona virus out-break in the world. The situation is majorly in Ports of entries in East Africa. Long queues of trucks have been witnessed in borders towns of Busia, Malaba, Isebania and Namanga as each EAC government is trying to contain the spread of the virus into their country. The East Africa Community unveiled a comprehensive COVID-19 response plan to reinforce measures to protect and prevent further spread of the pandemic.

The guidelines contained in this pamphlet are derived from WHO, EAC, and Interpol advisories applicable to law enforcement agencies especially border agencies with the aim to complement national guidelines to stop the spread of COVID-19. Operating Checks at Borders have been set out to, prioritize essential goods to mitigate covid-19 Pandemic, including: Food, fuel, medication, agricultural products and inputs, Security supplies, emergency and humanitarian relief goods. Arrangements to screen or test all cross-border truck drivers at least twice per month or just before they commence their trip to neighbouring Partner State have been put in place.

 There are designate points along the transit routes throughout the region where truck drivers and crew can recuperate without mingling with the local communities. These resting places will be communicated to other Partner States and the EAC Secretariat who use the Single Customs Territory processes particularly information technology systems to minimize human contact and physical exchange of documents. Commissioners of Customs and other Agencies will facilitate the movement of goods by allowing scanned documents in lieu of original documents that may take longer to be physically delivered. EAC recommended measures for officers at Border Crossing Points to ensure buildings are disinfected.

There are functional Port Health and quarantine areas, physical distancing of at least one meter between persons including officers. Cargo clearance should be facilitated at all designated entry points by multi-agency teams including, customs, Standards bodies, Health, Immigration, Security, Police, Port and Border control in the One Stop Center to minimize the time taken to clear goods, drivers and crew; Any controls instituted by individual Partner States should be applied in a considerate and proportionate manner.

 Priority treatment must be given to cargo mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic; Trucks carrying goods must have only 2-3 crew members to facilitate smooth border crossing; These mitigations are to ensure that crew members (persons in trucks carrying goods) are in good health. If a crew member (s) is found to be at high risk or tests positive for COVID-19, the truck shall be decontaminated before it is allowed to continue to the final destination and crew members quarantined for 14 days.

 In case crew members are quarantined while in transit, truck owners/operators make necessary arrangements to back-up crew to ensure that goods are delivered to the Intended destination. Truck drivers are required to declare their final destination and are urged to stop only at designated points along the transport corridors so as to limit chances of spreading COVID-19. Law enforcement may be involved in supporting public health control measures to help manage the situation.

The author is KenTrade’s Senior Customer Service Officer and representative at the Malaba One Stop Border post.



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