SADC adopts regional Guidelines for harmonising and facilitating movement of critical goods and services across the region during the COVID-19
The Council of Ministers of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) held their emergency virtual meeting on 6th April, 2020 where, among others, the Ministers adopted the regional Guidelines for the harmonisation and facilitation of movement of critical goods and services across SADC during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his remarks, the Chairperson of the SADC Council of Ministers, Hon. Professor Palamagamba John Kabudi, Minister of Foreign Affairs and East African Cooperation of the United Republic of Tanzania, hailed the adoption of the Guidelines as an important milestone in coordinating regional response that addresses the health and socio-economic aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hon. Prof. Kabudi called on Member States to strengthen their solidarity to contain the spread of the virus while maintaining movement of essential goods and services across regional borders.
The adopted Guidelines are aimed at, among others, limiting the spread of COVID-19 through transport across borders; facilitating the implementation of transport related national COVID19 measures in cross-border transportation; facilitating flow of essential goods such as fuel, food and medicines; limiting unnecessary and mass movement of passengers across borders; and harmonising and coordinating transport-related national COVID-19 policies, regulations and response measures.
The Guidelines call for the simplification and automation of trade and transport facilitation processes and documents, information sharing and provide guidance on the services to be provided by Governments, Transport Operators and Transport Operators Associations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In line with section 3.4 (xv) of the Guidelines, Member States are required to establish or assign National Transport and Trade Facilitation Committee (NTTFC) or structures with similar mandates. The responsibility of the NTTTFC is to coordinate the implementation of these guidelines and, in particular, to facilitate the resolution of operational issues at borders or road blocks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Secretariat has also with immediate effect, operationalised a Regional COVID 19 Trade and Transport Facilitation Cell (RTTFC) in order to assist Member States with the coordination of cooperation in implementing trade and transport related measures during COVID19 pandemic. The RTTFC will liaise with respective NTTTFC or similar structures.
During the meeting, the Council of Ministers urged Member States to urgently take all necessary measures to slow further spread and to avoid their health systems becoming overwhelmed as a result of seriously ill patients with COVID-19.
On the Disaster Risk Management, the Council of Ministers called on Member States to establish national Emergency Operations Centres to facilitate coordination of logistics and stockpiling for disasters at the national level; and to establish National Emergency Trust Funds and National Resource Mobilization Strategies to facilitate mobilization of financial resources for national disaster responses, including for responding to COVID-19.
On 4April, 2020, following the national measures to combat COVID-19 in SADC region, the Executive Secretary of SADC, Her Excellency Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax commended SADC Member States for responding swiftly and putting in place drastic measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. H.E. Dr Tax also paid tribute to all the people on the frontlines of the fight against the pandemic for risking their lives to save lives.