Efforts against COVID-19 Spread Threatened By Illegal Migration and Low Testing Capacity in Border Areas
By Bernabas Shiferaw
June 2, 2020
Despite Ethiopia’s decision to close all its border entrances to prevent new cases of COVID-19 from border areas of neighboring countries, migrants had been entering the country crossing borders illegally.
Moreover, many of the immigrants applying to enter the country are Ethiopians and the government cannot refuse them entrance.
Taking these facts into account, the government reconsidered the matter and decided to reopen border stations with facilities for the facilitation of legal migration, quarantining and testing migrants. However, the capacity for testing and quarantining patients in these border areas is very low compared to the volume of immigrants.
The regional government of Gambella has announced today that 3,000 North Sudanese citizens have crossed the border and entered the region in the last five days. According to the region, although all border entrances have been closed, these migrants have entered Ethiopia illegally at a place called Tegak. The migrants have been made to enter a shelter near the border. Of the 3,000 immigrants that arrived in the last five days, only 100 of the immigrants have been tested for COVID-19 so far.
The taskforce operating in the Amhara region had announced last week that both material and human resources are lacking to effectively tackle the spread of the disease in the border town of Metema and its surrounding, through which most of the cross border trade between Ethiopia and Sudan is conducted. Most of the COVID-19 cases registered in the region so far were from this area. Last week, 17 confirmed cases were registered in the area in one day.
Health officers in the town of Galafi, located on the Ethio-Djibouti border, have also reported that given the large volume of people crossing the border every day and the extremely hot weather in the area, the human resources at hand are not enough.
95 percent of Ethiopia’s international trade items come in and go out of the country through the town. Over 200,000 people, excluding drivers and other workers in the logistics sector, have come to Galafi in the last four months.
Of these, over 350 people have been quarantined, suspected of carrying the virus. But since there is no testing facility in the area, the samples are sent to Semera, the regional capital, or to Addis Ababa. Over 20 confirmed cases have been registered so far.
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