Tuesday, June 23, 2020

SADC Tackles Covid-19
24 JUN, 2020 - 00:06
Political Editor

AN extraordinary SADC Council of Ministers virtual meeting yesterday adopted guidelines that will see the region enhancing cooperation in trade through increased traffic movement, manufacturing drugs and jointly acquiring medicines from countries such as India in order to reduce costs in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The meeting, which was chaired by Tanzania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation, Prof Palamagamba John Kabudi, was a follow-up to another one that was held in May by the Sadc Council of Ministers, which among other things directed the expanded technical committee on health to meet by June 5 and come up with revised regional guidelines on harmonisation and facilitation of cross border transport operations across the region,.

Addressing the media after the meeting, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Dr Sibusiso Moyo, who led a delegation of ministers, permanent secretaries and senior Government officials, said Zimbabwe, and the region at large, were now adapting to the new normal that has been brought by Covid-19.

“Member countries are preparing to open up, so that they can make their economic activities active and that obviously increases the trade and transit of both trade and people and these are the implications of trying to reopen, however, it depends with where the Covid-19 is going to take us. We are going to live with the new normal, so that the livelihoods of people have to be satisfied at the same time guaranteeing the safety of Zimbabweans,” said Dr Moyo.

Following the outbreak of Covid-19, several SADC countries, including Zimbabwe, introduced national lockdowns and enforced strict border movements. However, the expanded technical committee on health called upon member states to gradually open up, not only to traffic but also to non-essential services including people.

“Whilst we were talking about trade, the meeting also agreed on the issues to do with the movement of persons. It is not only the movement of traffic that is important, but it is in particular the human beings who are the subject of Covid-19 and who are subjected to different forms of testing in member countries.

“In this light, the meeting also agreed that the executive secretariat is mandated to work with the extended technical committee which presented its report today to the council so that it could make recommendations on the standards, guidelines and recommendations which can persuade the member states to behave in a particular manner in as far as the handling of Covid-19 is concerned,” said Dr Moyo.

The minister said the coordinated Sadc response had to be guided with the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines on the global pandemic which has not spared the region by claiming lives and disrupting economies.

“There was a decision that was taken on the procurement or the capacitation of member countries so that the region itself also has  responsibility to manufacture its own drugs that will be subjected to thorough testing so that they could be exchanged within the region, and above that there has been an offer by India to provide drugs at a discounted rate to the Sadc member states and that SADC member states were going to do so as a regional bloc so that they can benefit from the economies of scale,” said Dr Moyo.

To enhance trade within the region, truck drivers will be issued with certificates that will be valid between 7 and 14 days.

“We received a report from the extended technical committee which looked into issues of health, movement. We basically agreed that the certificates are going to be valid for between 7-14 days and member states who may want to vary that particular practice will have to do so in consultation with those countries where those members or citizens are concerned.

“It has also been agreed that in the event of a driver being found positive, the owners of the trucks will carry the bill. The driver would have to be placed in quarantine in the country in which the driver would have tested positive, and provide health services but with the cost being met by the owners of the trucks,” Dr Moyo said.

He added that the truck owners, apart from footing the medical bills for truckers will also have to provide a substitute driver to continue with the journey.

“We also agreed that we should introduce technologies so that drivers will only stop at designated points so that it will be easier to control and that it will be easier to monitor within that period of 14 days,” he said.

In view of the ever changing dynamics around the deadly coronavirus Minister Moyo said there will be constant updates on the measures to be taken by the region.

Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister Kazembe Kazembe, Transport and Infrastructure Development Minister Joel Biggie Matiza and State Security Minister Owen Ncube attended the meeting.

No comments: