By Spy Uganda
Mutukula: In a bid to control the further spread of Covid-19, Uganda and Tanzania have resolved to jointly handle cross border operations with tightened restrictions on cross-border movements.
According to Kenneth Byaruhanga, the Senior Immigration Officer in Charge of Mutukula Border post, the two neighbouring countries are uniformly enforcing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) including testing those leaving or returning to either country, to ensure that residents moving across borders are safe to proceed to their final destinations.
The border authorities in Tanzania say that they are following President Suluhu’s directives including taking a COVID-19 test within 72-hours before arrival, quarantine of travellers found with COVID-19 for 14 days and a rapid test after the 14-days all at their expense. This, according to Byaruyhanga, is in addition to emphasizing regular hand-washing, social distancing, and wearing of face masks at the two customs offices.
At Mutukula customs -Uganda there are two private testing companies namely Maia Medical Lab as well as Test and Travel which charge 125,000 Shillings for a COVID test. But according to Bryaruhanga, there are more cases in the communities during the second wave of the pandemic, as opposed to the first wave where more of the cases were recorded among travellers.
About the traffic floor, Byaruhanga says that they are currently receiving cargo trucks, and licensed tourist vehicles and those returning to Uganda. He further noted that they used to receive an average of 150 people arriving and leaving the country per day before the 42-day-lockdown, but the number had fallen to at least 70 people by the time the lockdown ended on Friday.
Kyotera district chairperson, Patrick Kintu Kisekulo says they are still facing the challenge of managing cross border movements at the Nangoma and Musambwa Islands as well as Kasensero Landing site. Similarly, Magdalene Nasolo, the Mutukula LCI chairperson, says that due to lack of strict enforcement, several residents do not observe the curfew and other SOPs.
Kyotera Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Hajji Moses Ddumba noted that some travellers had deliberately refused to wear face masks, maintain social distancing as well as respecting curfew guidelines on both sides of the border. As a result, they hold bi-weekly meetings with the town council leadership, wards and cell leaders, and border authorities to enforce the strict observance of SOPs.
According to Joachim Lubega Wasswa, the District COVID-19 Surveillance Focal Person, the Kyotera wave peaked on June 7, 2021, with more than 1,000 people testing positive for the disease, while nine lives were lost. He further attributed the increasing number to poor monitoring of patients in home-based care adding that most of them have defied the guidelines and keep roaming and interacting with unsuspecting members of the community.