EAC leaders root for harmonised system of sharing COVID-19 test results
President Paul Kagame on Tuesday, May 12, chaired a consultative meeting that brought together four East African Community (EAC) leaders and discussed the regional efforts to tackle the COVID-19 that has ravaged the world.
The meeting which had earlier been postponed was held virtually by video conferencing and Kagame chaired it in his capacity as the current chairperson of the summit for the six-nation regional bloc.
Other heads of state who attended included Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Salva Kiir of South Sudan.
Tanzania’s John Pombe Magufuli and Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi did not attend.
Among others, the four leaders decided that partner states adopt a harmonised system for certification and sharing of COVID-19 test results.
According to a subsequent Communique, the leaders took note of the current status of the pandemic in the region and commended the ministers responsible for health, trade, transport and EAC affairs for their initiative in adopting a regional approach to the pandemic.
The four Presidents took note of the regional response plan and directed the ministers responsible for health, trade, transport and EAC affairs “to ensure that it complements the partner states’ national COVID-19 response plans.”
Digital surveillance and tracking system
The Presidents stressed that information sharing is key during crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic and directed concerned regional ministers to “finalise and adopt an EAC digital surveillance and tracking system for drivers and crew on COVID-19 for immediate use by partner states.”
The leaders also took note of efforts by partner states in undertaking bilateral engagements to address cross-border challenges and the EAC Secretariat mission that assessed the situation on clearance processes at the borders during the pandemic.
The region’s key economic sectors are experiencing a slowdown as a result of the pandemic, the regional leaders observed, according to the communique.
Sectors such as agriculture, trade, manufacturing and industry, tourism, hospitality and entertainment have been hit hard.
The leaders thus directed partner states to prioritize regional value or supply chains to support local production of essential medical products and supplies including masks, sanitizers, soaps, coveralls, face shields, processed food and ventilators as part of efforts to combat COVID-19 in the region.
The leaders further directed partner states to facilitate farmers to continue farming activities during this pandemic.
In the post-COVID-19 period, countries are also directed to support agro-processing and value chains as an import substitution measure and establish special purpose financing schemes for small and medium enterprises, to cushion them from the negative effects of the pandemic.
The ministers responsible for health, transport and EAC affairs were designated to be the focal persons for the regional COVID-19 response under the leadership of the ministers of health
The leaders directed these Ministers to immediately work on a regional mechanism for testing and certification of truck drivers prior to their departure at the point of origin and every two weeks, and report to the Heads of State.
They agreed to meet regularly to address the response efforts. And they expressed the need for flexibility in the application of the EAC rules and procedures when faced with a crisis such as the current pandemic.