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Trucks backlog cleared at Busia Airstrip, locals demand mass testing

By Ignatius Odanga | June 26th 2020

Days after the State cleared a backlog of truckers at the Busia Airstrip, residents are now demanding for mass testing for coronavirus.

Hundreds of heavy commercial trucks, which had parked at the airstrip for close to two months as drivers waited for their test results and subsequent clearance to cross the border, have since been driven away.

When The Standard visited the airstrip yesterday, only three trucks were still parked there. One had a mechanical problem while the other two belonged to drivers who are recovering at Alupe isolation centre.

While the drivers were still parked at the airstrip, residents exploited the opportunity to open small businesses. Eateries selling food for the drivers sprouted while some caretakers converted rooms that were yet to be rented out as lodgings.

Commercial sex workers, some from Uganda, also took advantage of the gridlock to lurk around looking for clients.

Local women collected clothes and washed for the drivers at a cost of Sh10, while those who wanted to take a shower in a room had to pay Sh50.

Residents expressed mixed reactions after the drivers were cleared off the airstrip land by the government.

While some saw it as a relief since they feared contacting the virus, those who benefited from the drivers bemoaned loss of business.

Wycliffe Lumala said the truckers were a nuisance to them as they interacted freely with locals even before knowing their status.

“At least someone heard our concerns and finally the drivers with their trailers are not at the airstrip,” said Lumala.

Head of Response Team David Mukabi last week said they are expecting many community infections since some truckers, who tested positive, had interacted with locals. Testing will target a few identified hot spot areas, particularly near Busia and Malaba towns.

Mass testing, which was due to take place at the airstrip yesterday failed to kick off after some locals disrupted the exercise saying many of the people who turned up were not residents, but had been ferried from other places.

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