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President John Magufuli's government which has lifted most COVID-19 restrictions including a 14-day quarantine period for international tourists arriving in the country accused the Kenyan government of undermining free trade/FILE/AFP

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Tanzania shuts its borders to Kenyan truckers citing sabotage in virus war

NAIROBI, Kenya, May 19 – Tanzania’s government Monday announced an indefinite ban on cargo drivers from Kenya in an escalated response to a recent directive by President Uhuru Kenyatta on mandatory COVID-19 screening at the border point.

President John Magufuli’s government which has lifted most COVID-19 restrictions including a 14-day quarantine period for international tourists arriving in the country accused the Kenyan government of undermining free trade.

Tanga Regional Commissioner Martine Shidela Monday said the move is aimed at curbing COVID-19 infections at the border points accusing Kenyans of spreading coronavirus to Tanzania.

“I direct authorities that as from today they are not allow any truckers coming from Kenya to enter our country, we cannot allow them to continue shipping the virus into our country,” said Shidela.    

“Tanzanians who have tried crossing the border to Kenya are really facing challenges, do not bother going there anymore to buy items,” he added.

The Tanzanian official added that goods from her country to Kenya will also be offloaded at the border from where they will be picked by their Kenyan owners.

Trucks from Kenya heading to other countries in the south such as Malawi, Zambia, DRC through Tanzania will, however, be allowed entry provided they are not driven by Kenyans.

The directive by the Tanzanian official comes after the Health Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman announced that 51 Tanzania nationals were denied entry into the country after testing positive for COVID-19 at various border points.

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In a directive issued on May 16, President Kenyatta ordered the closure of the Kenya-Tanzania border to all passenger traffic in a bid to avert a spike in COVID-19 infections.

President Kenyatta declared directed officials at the border to only allow truck drivers who have tested negative for the coronavirus into Kenya.

Health Chief Administrative Secretary Rashid Aman Monday said more laboratories will be set up at Kenya-Tanzania border points to ramp up testing for COVID-19 amid complaints by truckers of delayed clearance at the border.

“The problem we currently have is along the Tanzanian border at Isebania, Namanga, and Taita Taveta where we do not yet have functional laboratories that can do the test and turn around the results very quickly,” Aman said.

As of May 18, Kenya coronavirus cases rose to 912 after twelve more people tested positive for the disease.

A total of 1,139 samples were tested in a period of 24 hours with 44,7851 samples having been tested since March.

Twenty-two more patients were also discharged after having recovered, raising the number of recoveries to 335, the death toll standing at fifty.

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