The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has adopted special guidelines to harmonise and facilitate the movement of critical goods and services across the region during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Countries in the region including Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia and Botswana have enforced total lockdowns in an effort to stop the spread of Covid-19.
In an effort to ease challenges posed by the lockdowns, Sadc council of Ministers convened an emergency virtual meeting on Monday where they agreed to facilitate the flow of essential goods such as fuel, food and medicines and limiting unnecessary and mass movement of passengers across borders.
In a statement, Sadc encouraged governments to categorise cross border truck drivers, pilots and crews as workers undertaking essential and exempted services to facilitate their movement.
“Only trucks/vehicles with cargo, goods and services including food, medical equipment and medicines, including medical supplies and Personal Protection Equipment, fuel, including coal, agricultural inputs and supplies, chemicals, packaging, equipment, spares, maintenance materials and ancillary products used in the production and processing of food products, security, emergency and humanitarian relief services will be allowed to operate in interstate operations in order to ensure continuity of supply chains,” read the statement.
“Other goods and products may be agreed among and between member states.”
The statement said this would be done through the simplification and automation of trade and transport facilitation processes and documents.
To reduce face to face interaction and delays at ports and borders, member States were encouraged to introduce or enhance pre-clearance of goods and single window processing and online platforms for the clearance of imports and exports, application, issuance and renewals of licences and permits, registration of drivers, operators, vehicles and loads.
Inter-State mass movement of persons by buses/minibuses or other vehicles will be suspended for defined periods except when special exemptions have been granted.
The special cross border permits have to be mutually agreed and recognised by the country of origin, country of destination and country of transit.
“Citizens and residents returning to home countries will be subject to local regulations on screening and testing and may be subjected to isolation and quarantine if deemed necessary,” it said.
Operators or organisations who apply for the special permits have to meet certain conditions including reducing the number of passengers in a bus, minibus or other vehicle to allow for social distancing.
Sadc said the provision of WHO recommended hygiene facilities on the vehicle, information dissemination to passengers on Covid-19 preventative measures were also some of the conditions.
Passengers also have to complete travel history questionnaires which will be handed over to port health authorities.
For other modes of transport including air and rail member, states will consult and agree on the suspension of interstate transport services and the conditions for services that will be allowed to continue.
“Inter-state travelling of persons should be discouraged and where it takes place it should be according to travel advisories, rules and procedures put in place by country of origin, transit and destination.” – New Ziana