As the rest of the world comes up with regulations to bring back travel, the East African Community is stepping up too, with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi adopting the EACPass.
This is a Covid-19 authentication pass for the bloc's citizens, meant to ease travel across the region’s internal borders. The three countries are already accepting the health document.
Kenya, Tanzania and South Sudan are yet to adopt it. The implementation of the EACPass is taking place at a time when traffic snarl ups have been experienced at the Kenya-Uganda border, reminiscent of the early pandemic days when countries had imposed contentious Covid-19 test charges.
The Pass will, however, also ease leisure travel and remove confusion in EAC citizens on what is required to travel regionally as tourism opens up.
EAC Secretary-General Peter Mathuki said, “Other partner states are finalising the internal processes to start the piloting of the same.” The economic bloc has been at the forefront of pushing for harmonising of travel regulations.
“Harmonisation of Covid-19 charges and co-ordinated waiting time for Covid-19 results is critical to facilitate business and travel continuity and ease the cost of doing business.”
The EACPass, considered a Covid-19 certificate, will be issued to travellers within the EAC to facilitate crossing borders and at all ports of entry and also for travel outside the Community. It is integrated to all six EAC member countries’ central depository (national laboratories) and only national accredited laboratories are approved to carry out PCR Covid-19 tests for travellers.
“This is expected to create confidence in all partner states since certificates are digitally authenticated from all accredited laboratories in the region.”
Recently, the UAE banned Kenyan flights and travellers from the country, for incidences of Kenyans presenting fake negative Covid-19 certificates, in the face of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the region. Kenya later issued retaliatory flight ban order on the UAE as the row escalated.
The EACPass works by consolidating the results of all travellers undertaking mandatory testing in accredited labs in each partner state.
Only PCR negative Covid-19 results are pushed automatically to the EACPass, which is accessible digitally and is verifiable at all ports of entry and exit.
It will help to verify digital certificates for negative tests and digital vaccination certificates for those that have been vaccinated to avoid red tape at points of entry. Currently all countries are testing at the points of entry and exits.
The EACPass will also resolve the trade impasse at the Kenya-Uganda border crossings of Busia and Malaba, being gateways on the Northern Corridor for Burundi, the DR Congo, Rwanda and South Sudan.