NAIROBI – These days 40-year-old truck driver Bob Njagi has a lot of free time. He spends much of it meeting colleagues to talk about COVID-19.
Njagi’s contract was terminated after it took too long to deliver goods because of coronavirus restrictions.
“All the goods we were moving to Kampala had to wait for over two weeks before they could cross to the other side. So, this means there is no business, and we are also out of work,” he told VOA.
The father of three is finding life difficult since losing his job two months ago.
“We depend on work so that we can feed our families. If you don’t work, you don’t have money to feed your family,” he said. “So it’s that direct to us because if we cannot move our goods, if we cannot work, allowed to work how do we feed our families?
Long-distance truckers like Njagi are suspected of carrying coronavirus, which has stalled activities at borders in East Africa.
Duncan Mutunga, an employed truck driver, says coronavirus has made life difficult.
“At the border, every country has its restrictions. In Kenya, we have our challenges. Uganda has its challenge,” he told VOA. “For example, when we arrive in Uganda, they confiscate our possessions, saying they are bringing corona and don’t return them. It’s a problem everywhere. “
The restrictions to limit the spread of the coronavirus in East African nations has forced some drivers to work overtime, says Mercy Ireri of Kenya Transport Association.
“It’s forcing transport drivers to be behind the wheel for a very long period of time, and you find that these drivers are suffering from fatigue, and it’s not a very good thing to have a fatigued driver on the road,” she said. “So, we are still calling upon our governments to try and reorganize their measures so that they are favorable to our drivers.”
Kenya’s government spokesman, Cyrus Oguna, says truckers must live with these conditions as long as the virus is spreading.
“Every truck driver must be able to ensure he plans his journey well so that after 48 hours, he will have been issued with that corona-free certificate to be allowed to travel,” Oguna told VOA. “What that means is this, for those truck drivers that might test positive, then they will not be allowed to travel. Only those that are negative will be allowed to travel, and then 14 days again they must take another coronavirus test.”
Governments in the region have agreed to work together and share the drivers’ statuses as one way to ease the delay of goods.