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President Launches New Mandatory COVID-19 Testing Lab at Entebbe International

Uganda President launches testing lab at Entebbe International

The President of Uganda, H.E. Yoweri Kaguta T. Museveni, officially launched the COVID-19 laboratories on Friday, October 22, 2021 at a function held at the new terminal extension. The lab is to be used for mandatory COVID-19 testing of all incoming passengers both vaccinated and unvaccinated through Entebbe International Airport.

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  1. The measure is intended to curb further importation of the deadly variants of the coronavirus into the country and to abet further spread of the disease and guard against the third wave.
  2. The country has previously been testing only passengers from high-risk countries.
  3. The facility has the capacity to test 3,600 passengers in 12 hours and 7,200 passengers in 24 hours.

In a press release issued by Vianney Mpungu Luggya, Manager of Public Affairs for the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, a Notice to Airmen communicating the details of the mandatory testing requirements to all airlines is to be immediately processed and issued accordingly.

Speaking at the launch, the President commended all the stakeholders who had played a role in making it possible. The Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Robinah Nabbanja, had earlier on cited the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Ministry of Works and Transport, the Army Brigade, and Uganda Civil Aviation Authority as having played leading roles.

The function was also attended by the 3rd Deputy Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Lukiya Nakadama; the Minister in charge of General Duties, Hon. Justine Lumumba; the Minister of Health, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng; and the Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, Hon. Matia Kasaija, among other dignitaries.

Earlier on, Rt. Hon. Nabbanja informed stakeholders at a meeting held on Thursday, October 21, 2021, that the measure is intended to curb further importation of the deadly variants of the coronavirus into the country. It is also to abet further spread of the disease and guard against the third wave.

The country has previously been testing only passengers from high-risk countries.

The Ministry of Health set up the testing laboratories at the airport and trained laboratory technicians, data entrants, and all the other port-health staff to manage the process. The turnaround time for the mandatory COVID-19 test results will be reduced from 4 hours to 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Five PCR test machines with the capacity to test 300 samples per hour are in place at Entebbe International Airport. The facility has the capacity to test 3,600 passengers in 12 hours and 7,200 passengers in 24 hours.

The government reduced the cost of a COVID-19 test from US$65 to US$30. The transfer of testing laboratories from Peniel Beach where private laboratories were operating to Entebbe International Airport under the government was intended to improve on the passenger facilitation process to ensure efficient service delivery.

The UCAA Director General, Mr. Fred Bamwesigye, thanked the President and Cabinet for the various efforts, especially the financial support to the various participating agencies to enable them to install the testing facilities at the airport, which was expected to enhance the passenger experience in light of the fact that all the processes would be completed at the airport. He also called for further support to enable the Authority complete on-going projects.

The Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) has been working together with other partners such as the Ministry of Health, Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) engineering brigade who constructed the facility in a record one month, National Planning Authority, Uganda Tourism Board, Ministry of Trade, Security, and other agencies to ensure safety measures are observed.

Dr. Atek Kagirita, the Deputy Incident Commander for COVID-19 and operations officer in-charge of COVID-19 testing at the airport, said they have oriented staff to equip them with airport operations, safety, and security implications to safeguard them from the pandemic.

Procedure

Passengers will go through the port health processes and later the swabbing area.

“We have got swab samples for tourists, VIPs, and for ordinary passengers,” confirmed Kenneth Otim, Principal Public Affairs Officer, UCAA.

When the passenger is swabbed, they shall be directed through the exit of the terminal to where UCAA has arranged a holding place for all the passengers that would have taken their swabs.

The turnaround time for these swabbings until the time you get your PCR test results is expected to be 2 1/2 hours. The facility has testing equipment, a data center, and Genprex machines.

The National Information Technology Authority (NITA-U) has provided an Internet connection to ensure that the system at the swabbing areas and the systems at the laboratory communicate, for verification of passenger records, and also to verify how much money has been paid for testing.

Passengers found to be negative will be allowed to proceed to their final destination.

Tourists found positive shall be shuttled to specific hotels, while regular travelers found positive, the Ministry of Health will deploy vehicles to transport them to Namboole (Mandela) stadium where they will be quarantined.

According to the Ministry of Health data, the highest uptake of the jabs (668,982) has been recorded in this month of October, days after Uganda back-to-back received 5.5 million vaccines, showing a positive correlation between higher vaccine stock and a rising jabbed population.

Results of COVID-19 tests done on October 20, 2021, confirm 111 new cases. The cumulative confirmed cases are 125,537; cumulative recoveries 96,469; and 2 new deaths.

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Tony Ofungi - eTN Uganda

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