Lorry drivers demand faster coronavirus testing


Ferdinand Omondi

Lorry drivers working across East Africa are demanding faster test results for Covid-19 at border posts and say they are facing severe levels of stigmatisation.

Long-distance drivers are seen as a group which could potentially spread the virus

The rate at which vehicles get cleared for departure is much slower than the rate at which trucks arrive at the border. The result is longer queues and many days of waiting.

The delays have caused truckloads of perishable foods to rot. They also mean additional accommodation expenses for the crew and general disruption of vital supply lines.

The targeted testing started in April, and at its worst, has seen trucks queue for as long as 40km (24 miles).

During the time the drivers wait to get tested or receive their results, they walk freely – crossing between Kenya and Tanzania, eating in local hotels and sleeping on either side of the border. There’s a big concern among locals that the free movement could be spreading the virus.

The truck drivers’ union in Kenya has complained that the targeted testing of its drivers has caused them to be stigmatised; they say some neighbours avoid them, and while on the road, some of them get insulted.

Kenya has enforced heavy restrictions on movement during the pandemic, while Tanzania has a more relaxed approach, which has left the Kenyan side of the border suspicious of drivers coming in from Tanzania.