Thousands of drivers and trucks are either being quarantined or queuing at borders in southern Africa. The situation is utterly chaotic – and could well see the spread of the virus.
According to Mike Fitzmaurice, CEO of the Federation of East and Southern Africa Road Transport Associations (Fesarta), all drivers are being quarantined for 14 days on the Zambian side of the Livingstone border. “This is irrespective of whether they test positive or not. The trucks are being forced into a red-tape area for quarantine. The government health officials are doing basic scanning for temperature and other symptoms. They have about three toilets for about 100 drivers or so. Drivers are left to cater for themselves for 14 days,” he reports.
There is currently pandemonium at the border because of the queue, congestion and the resistance to go into quarantine. “We have established that it was the regional medical officer that issued the instruction due to his fears of the virus. The Zambia Revenue Authority Regional Officer is on his way to the border to find out what is going on. There is no official announcement on this. Both Agent Association and Truckers Association are involved, and we feel that the issue should be resolved as soon as the Regional Officer gets to the border,” says Fitzmaurice.
Due to the fear of being quarantined at Livingstone, drivers are now queuing on the Botswana side at Kazangula and on the Zimbabwe side at Vic Falls. “The queue at Kazungula is bad: two lanes for 40 km long. About 3 600 vehicles are currently queuing at Kazangula on the Botswana side,” reveals Fitzmaurice.
He is currently negotiating with the authorities to get the trucks released. This is critical because some of the trucks are carrying perishables, fuel and medical supplies destined for Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“If we are successful the plan is to try and decongest Kazangula border by making use of the service bridge across the Zambezi river at Kazangula to get trucks across quickly as opposed to using the ferries,” he explains.
Meanwhile, thousands of trucks and drivers are stranded – without proper sanitation and they’re certainly not adhering to social distancing either. “It’s beyond conceivable at the moment when we are in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic and we should be avoiding the build-up and gathering of large groups of people, these drivers are being treated inhumanely as they have no access to proper sanitation and good hygiene conditions,” concludes Fitzmaurice.
We will keep readers updated as this situation evolves.
VERY LATEST NEWS:
- News at as 10.30 am on 30/3: Customs worked overnight to clear trucks from Botswana and Kazungula has been declared a customs area. All roads in Kazungula to the weighbridge have queues with trucks. Customs are releasing trucks but if the driver has been there for fewer than 14 days, he’s not allowed to move until the 14 days is over. The 14 days start when the driver crossed the South African border.
- “This going to be a disaster of note as they do not have the facilities to quarantine the drivers under human conditions and drivers are being abandoned on the side of the road for 14 days with no proper sanitation, running water and they will not be able practice proper hygiene,” comments Fitzmaurice.