Juba, South Sudan,
June 10, 2021 – Authorities at Nimule border say incapacitation to test cross-border travelers has seen entry into South Sudan by Ugandans without health check-ups in an unprecedented turn of events that could lead to the new COVID-19 variant cascading into the country.
According to a report by Radio Miraya, health teams at the border-crossing point say COVID-19 testing for travelers entering South Sudan from Uganda has stagnated.
In another staggering report, the health department within the area told the radio station that COVID-19 testing has not been conducted in the last two months due to the unavailability of testing kits and other critical support from health partners.
The condition has forced the health team at the border to scale down operation to temperature checks.
The Health Director of Magwi County in Nimule, Gama Emmanuel, says the weakness in border surveillance has been worsened by an ongoing strike by COVID-19 frontline health workers in the country.
Dr. Gama is alarmed that South Sudan is at high risk of getting the new variant that has been detected in neighboring Uganda. Museveni recently announced another lockdown as COVID-19 cases surge in the country.
With only three days given for free movement, most Ugandans who fear the pain of lockdown are making their way to South Sudan, and Juba in particular.
South Sudan is one of the most vulnerable countries in the region to the pandemic. Besides a faltering health system, the country is ill-prepared to contain a new variant of COVID-19.
In May, the government downsized the COVID-19 Rapid Response team because it could no longer pay them despite donations worth millions of dollars from regional and global partners.
The country has also taken back 72000 doses of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine to COVAX after failing to administer them in the three-month timeframe.
Without a vibrant, supported rapid response team and proper vaccine acquisition plan, an outbreak of a new variant would force another lockdown in South Sudan. That would mean a catastrophe.