LUSAKA (Reuters) – Zambia reopened its Nakonde border with Tanzania on Friday after a five-day closure of the key transit point for copper and cobalt exports and fuel imports, three sources told Reuters.
President Edgar Lungu had shut the border on Sunday after the town of Nakonde recorded 76 cases of Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, the highest number registered by Africa’s No. 2 copper producer in a day.
“We have trucks that have already crossed,” a logistics official said, adding that they had not yet seen an official confirmation from the provincial government.
Muchinga Province Minister Malozo Sichone did not immediately reply to Reuters’ requests for comment.
On Wednesday, Mr Sichone had today Reuters that Zambia could reopen border with Tanzania to cargo trucks today.
He said Zambia, which closed its border with Tanzania on Sunday to stem the spread of the new coronavirus, could soon reach an agreement with its neighbour over the passage of cargo trucks carrying copper and other crucial goods.
The border was closed to cargo, but on Wednesday talks were ongoing over how to allow trucks to move once again.
“The movement of cargo will commence as soon as we conclude negotiations we are having with our counterparts,” Mr. Sichone told Reuters.
Mr. Sichone had previously said priority would be given to trucks bringing essential goods such as fuel, medical supplies, and food into Zambia.
“By today we could conclude,” Mr. Sichone said on Wednesday.
A logistics official, however, said the border was only expected to reopen for metal exports this weekend.
A second logistics company manager said the closure is having a “big impact” on the flow of trucks carrying copper from Zambian and Congolese mines out to the port of Dar es Salaam.
“Customers are halting loading material onto trucks headed to Dar es Salaam until there is clarity,” he said.
Tanzania had confirmed 509 cases of the coronavirus, with 21 deaths as of Tuesday, according to the World Health Organization.
The government has been criticised for not providing regular updates on the spread of the outbreak, and the opposition has accused it of being secretive.