How border crossings at Mutukula expose Uganda to COVID-19

Mamos Media

Dr Diana Atwiine, the Permanent Secretary for Ministry of Health talks to doctors and security officers at Mutukula border post on April 30, 2020. PHOTO BY AMBROSE MUSASIZI 

By AMBROSE MUSASIZI

Ministry of Health experts who are at the frontline of stopping the spread of COVID-19 in Uganda have raised a red flag about the uncontrolled movement of civilians on the Uganda-Tanzania border at Mutukala, in Rakai District.

They say, the situation could fuel the spread of the disease in Uganda.

Tanzania has recorded 480 COVID-19 cases. This is the highest figure in the region since Kenya has 411, Rwanda 249 and Uganda 85. 

According to the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Dr Diana Atwiine, residents at the border don’t observe social distancing and other set health measures, which can expose them and other Ugandans to the virus.

 “According to what I have seen at the border here, however much we put control measures in Kampala and other areas;  without focusing here, the disease is going to spread into our community,” she said.  “People move the way they want from one side of the border to the other, some sleep in Uganda and cross to Tanzania in the morning, to run their businesses.”

Dr Atwine led a team of medics from the ministry to find out how guidelines that were set to prevent the spread of COVD-19, are being enforced.

She said that unlike cross-border cargo truck drivers from Tanzania who are screened and tested for COVID-19 on rival at the border, residents walk freely on either side of the boundary.

“We are going to quickly handle this issue of Ugandans who are freely mixing with Tanzanians because our neighbours have not taken serious measures to fight this scourge,” Dr Atwine said.

Uganda has in the past few weeks seen an increase in infections among truck drivers, especially from Kenya and Tanzania.

Twenty five truck drivers have tested positive for the virus in Uganda.

Rtd Maj David Matovu, the Kyotera District Resident Commissioner said some people at the border, especially the youth, are stubborn and difficult to stop from crossing to Tanzania.

“We tried to deploy security personal here, but Ugandans often escape and go to bars in Tanzania whereas others go to meet their spouses. We, therefore, need to devise other means of mitigating this,” he said.

According to Mr Asuman Muhindo, a resident of Mutukula, Ugandans travel across the border in Tanzania mainly to visit spouses, to drink alcohol and to trade.

“In my case, I have two wives in Tanzania and I also have a wife in Uganda which prompts me at times to sleep in Uganda or Tanzania. Some of my colleagues spend nights in Uganda, but travel to Tanzania the next to operate their retail shops,” said.

Mr Patrick Kintu Kisekulo, the Kyotera District chairperson asked government to delay the reopening of schools near the border since 45 percent of learners come from Tanzania.

Source Daily Monitor.

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