The East African Community has called on member states to have a harmonised policy in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic.

East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) Speaker Martin Ngoga said in a press conference after the resumption physical assembly meetings in Arusha that it is essential for member states to have a uniform approach in combatting the spread of the virus.

“We call on member states to look at the possibilities of harmonizing the measures we take as a region so we have a common approach such that people, even in difficult times of the pandemic, can continue to enjoy the benefits of integration,” said the EALA speaker Martin Ngoga.

East African Community governments have been seen to leverage capacities through the $128 million East Africa Public Health Laboratory Networking Project in their response to the coronavirus. Wajir Referral Hospital, located in remote northeastern Kenya on the borders with Somalia and Ethiopia, was earlier designated a COVID-19 testing site and has capacity to process 60 to 100 samples in 24 hours.

This comes as the region is still combatting the spread of Covid-19 with some countries imposing lockdowns while others are opening up their borders. EALA Member of Parliament Denis Namara observed that “The EAC ministers in charge of health met and agreed on how to handle the issue of pandemic across the region and harmonize the means on how to handle it this was not done”.

The pandemic is also a stress-test for collective action at the continental and regional levels since it subscribes to the ‘weakest link’ characteristic meaning that any failure to contain the virus threatens the safety of everyone else. Viral outbreaks do not respect borders thus the inability of one country to limit contagion will negatively impact its neighbors and others.

In May 2021 the East African Community Sectoral Council on Trade, Industry, Finance and Investment (SCTIFI) urged the EAC Regional Coordination Committee to review and harmonize the Covid-19 testing charges and the validity and mutual recognition of the certificates to ensure the safe and smooth movement of goods and people in the region.

However, African countries still face a number of specific challenges in addressing the respiratory pandemic for instance weak health systems, equipment shortages, economic vulnerability and a dearth of knowledge on the virus itself. According to World Bank general projections, the continent’s general economic growth will decline to between -2.1 and -5.1% in 2020 from 2.4% in 2019, leading to the first African recession in 25 years.