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Truck drivers in Mombasa have decried the lack of coronavirus testing centers in the county, despite pressure from relevant authorities, that they must have valid covid-19 negative certificates before accessing the port.
Through the Kenya Transporters Association Limited, truckers have now called for a nationwide strike, following revelations that there is nothing going on at the Miritini Hospital Covid-19 testing center, even as the government continues to say testing kits have been availed to test the truck drivers.
Despite assurance by the national government through the Ministry of Health, that it has availed Covid-19 testing kits so as to test truck drivers, it has now been revealed that there’s no functional testing center for truckers in Mombasa County.
A spot-check at what was to be the biggest testing center for the long distance essential service providers, the Miritini Hospital Covid-19 testing center, has revealed that the center is closed and there’s nothing going on.
Drivers, according to Stencilas Kioko, a truck driver, had as well been advised to avail themselves at the County Health headquarters grounds for testing on Thursday, but upon arrival, there was nobody to attend to them.
There are now claims that some of the long distance transport companies are conducting the tests within their yards, leaving out the majority of the drivers with each trucker being required to present valid Covid-19 free certificates at the Mombasa Port before they’re allowed to load cargo onto their trucks.
Kenya Transporters Association Limited, the umbrella body of truck drivers, through CEO Dennis Ombok, has continuously lamented that Mombasa truckers are missing Covid-19 tests and being stigmatized even by their government, to the extent of failing to provide testing kits and reagents.
According to the Association, the government is using COVID-19 pandemic to justify forced railing of cargo to the recently established 6.9 billion shillings Naivasha Inland Container Depot (ICD) dry port through the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), with the association now calling for a nationwide truck drivers’ strike.
Occasionally, there have been complaints of long queues by long distance trucks stretching to over 60 kilometers from Malaba border and even Busia border, as drivers await Covid-19 test results at border crossings, with those ferrying perishable goods incurring huge losses.
Truckers are as well decrying discrimination as they are now seen as the weak-link in the fight against the pandemic due to the nature of their work.