Border authorities highlight need to test truck drivers

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Rumbidzayi Zinyuke

Manicaland Bureau

Authorities at Forbes Border Post in Mutare have highlighted the need to test truck drivers passing through the port of entry for better management of any potential Covid-19 cases, as most of them were spending up to three days in the city while awaiting customs clearance.

Forbes is Southern Africa’s gateway to the seaport of Beira and there have been concerns that continued movement of commercial trucks could be another source of local infections.

The border post is only open to cargo trucks and returning citizens due to Covid-19 regulations, but the number of trucks that go through the port has remained high.

Speaking during a joint tour by the Thematic Committee on Peace and Security and the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Local Government, Public Works and National Housing yesterday, Forbes Border Post health officer Mr Christopher Nyoni said truck drivers in transit were exempted from quarantine, which returning citizens were subjected to.

Since clearance can take up to three days, the same drivers are free to move around and mix with citizens, which becomes a challenge in the management of the pandemic.

He said an average of 600 truck drivers were screened at Forbes on a daily basis, but were not being tested.

“We have truck drivers coming in every day, but we do temperature checks and interview them, but we do not test them here,” said Mr Nyoni. “These drivers are in transit and they pass through at least four countries — Zambia, DRC, Mozambique and South Africa — and all these countries have Covid-19 cases.

“When they get here, they can only proceed after customs clearance which can take up to three days and in that time, they are not confined to their trucks, they move around and mix with citizens. Early detection and management of cases would be ideal.”

Mr Nyoni said there was need to capacitate the port authorities to test for Covid-19 to ensure that appropriate measures were taken in dealing with potential cases.

Thematic Committee chairperson Cde Miriam Chikukwa said they had noted the concern raised by port authorities on testing of drivers.

“We realise the need to have testing equipment at the border post since there is interaction with residents which is not good,” she said.

“We will recommend that Government should capacitate all border posts with enough test kits for the truck drivers to ensure that the fight against Covid-19 is won.”