Editor's Comment

Keep an eye on drivers

HUNDREDS of truck drivers from different companies parked their vehicles in Kabwe to press for salary increments and improved conditions of service. PICTURE: CHAMBO NG’UNI

THE outbreak of coronavirus has imposed restrictions on the movement of people. Truck drivers as frequent travellers are considered to be at high risk of contracting the disease as well as spreading it further across borders.
This is why Government has acted decisively through relevant authorities to restrict movement of truck drivers coming from other countries and those going out.
While truck drivers coming in are being quarantined, those going out through the Kasumbalesa border are restricted to two at a time.
There has been a directive in accordance with the Statutory Instruments 20 and 21 to quarantine all those coming in, including truck drivers.
Some truck drivers are quarantined at David Livingstone College in Livingstone and the University of Zambia in Lusaka.
While the decision to quarantine truck drivers and restrict the number of trucks being attended to at borders at a given time is inevitable because of the high risk posed, there is need to ensure that, in providing solutions against further spread of COVID-19, other problems are not created in the process.
While it is acknowledged that there are effects of the pandemic on economic and social life that cannot be avoided such as loss of business and disrupted life activities, there are others that can be avoided.
There is need to ensure that efforts to prevent COVID-19 do not cause more harm than the pandemic is already doing.
We are particularly concerned about reports that the queue of trucks destined for the Kasumbalesa border post in Chililabombwe has reached Kalulushi – a distance of close to 95kms.
A check by the Daily Mail yesterday found trucks parked from as far as the toll gate under construction on the Kalulushi-Sabina road up to Mwambashi Bridge near the Sabina checkpoint.
Some drivers say they have been in the queue for days and that the sanitation situation is bad as there is no running water in sight. Due to lack of sanitation facilities, some drivers are subjected to open defecation, a practice that is a serious health threat.
According to drivers and clearing agents at the scene, queues are building up because authorities at the border are only allowing a few people at a time to avoid congestion.
While this is done in good faith to prevent further spread of coronavirus, our worry is that the situation, if not attended to expeditiously, may degenerate into an outbreak of other diseases.
Such diseases include cholera, which Zambia has largely kept at bay this rainy season.
COVID-19 alone is bad enough, adding cholera could be devastating.
With trucks marooned for longer periods than anticipated, the risk of truck drivers engaging in illicit sex and increasing HIV and infections is raised.
Further, these drivers could fall prey to criminals.  They need security, but this can only be effective if the drivers themselves are vigilant.
And for the fact that the truck drivers freely mingle with people in surrounding communities, the chances of coronavirus spreading further are high, defeating the whole purpose of reduced congestion at the borders.
It is good that there is an assurance that drivers who are quarantined are under watch and are not allowed to sneak into neighbouring townships.  We hope that this will continue being so.
There is certainly need for stakeholders, including the corporate world and civil society, to put heads together and provide better quarantine facilities and food for these truck drivers.
There is need to ensure that they have access to clean water and sanitary facilities.
The challenge of coronavirus affects everyone, so people should not just look up to Government to provide solutions.
It is commendable that some individuals, communities and organisations are already making donations towards the fight against the disease. Others have donated premises for quarantining COVID-19 patients. We need more people to come on board. The challenge at hand is too huge to be dealt with by one stakeholder.
We are all stakeholders.

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