- This was after the initial mandatory directive requiring passengers to wait for their results on arrival at the airport met with a disastrous start.
- Several travelers shared footage of their ordeal on WhatsApp, twitter, facebook, and other social media platforms after waiting for hours at the airport.
- It was an embarrassment to an industry struggling to rebuild after almost 2 years.
To save face, for the second time within less than a week, a directive was issued on behalf of the Government of Uganda. This second one, referenced as S23/21 COVID-19 Health measures for Entebbe International Airport from the Civil Aviation Authority Aeronautical Information Office in Entebbe, supersedes the previous directive of SUP 22/21. This change takes effect today on November 5.
The new directive states:
1. All arriving passengers at Entebbe International Airport will, regardless of country of origin or vaccination status, undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing.
2. For convenience, all arriving passengers at Entebbe International Airport will have their samples for COVID-19 taken and allowed to proceed to their homes or to their hotels for self-isolation until they receive their results.
3. The test results will be sent to their phones/emails.
4. The only exemptions are:
– Children below 6 years.
– Airline crew with evidence of full COVID-19 vaccination.
5. Passengers who test positive will be followed up by a Ministry of Health Surveillance team.
6. The treatment for passengers in (5) above will follow the Ministry of Health COVID-19 treatment guidelines.
7. In case of a passenger who is detected on arrival with symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 infection, he/she will be isolated and taken to the government treatment center.
8. For smooth facilitation at Entebbe International Airport, all inbound passengers are mandatorily required to:
– fill in online Health Surveillance form 24 hours before arrival.
– pay US$30 online 24 hours before arrival.
9. All arriving passengers are required to present to Airport Port Health, COVID-19 negative PCR test certificate for a test taken within 72 hours from the time of sample collection.
10. All departing passengers are required to present to Airport Port Health, COVID-19 negative PCR certificate for a test taken within 72 hours from the time of sample collection to boarding. They will abide by the health travel requirements of their destination country.
11. Passengers arriving in the curfew time, and/or from districts beyond Kampala with a valid air ticket and boarding pass, shall be allowed to proceed to their hotels and/or residences.
12. Passengers departing in the curfew time, and/or from districts beyond Kampala with a valid air ticket, shall be allowed to proceed to their destination airport by presentation of the passenger ticket to the authorities as evidence of going to the airport.
13. Drivers should have evidence that they have come from the airport (such as airport parking ticket or passenger ticket) to drop or pick-up passengers.
14. Air transportation of human remains into the country is allowed if the following conditions are fulfilled:
– Medical Certificate of Cause of death.
– Post-mortem report or Comprehensive Medical Report from the attending doctor/health facility.
– Embalming certificate (including embalming certificate for death due to COVID-19).
– Copy of passport/identification document of the deceased. (The original passport/travel document/identification document to be presented to immigration authorities).
– Import license/import authorization from the Director General of Health Services.
– Appropriate packaging – wrapped in a waterproof body bag then placed in a zinc lined coffin and an outer metal or wooden box.
– The document will be verified by port health, and the casket on arrival shall be decontaminated by port health.
– The burial of bodies of COVID-19 victims will be conducted following the existing procedures for scientific burials.
15. To bring human remains in the country, clearance MUST be obtained from Ministries of Health and Foreign Affairs.
ETurboNews established that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) directive has now been informed on advice by scientists from General, Health Services, and the Ministry of Health headed by Director Dr. Henry G. Mwebesa.
Tour operators have been skeptical about the Ministry of Health being unrelenting on the mandatory testing on arrival, with the ministry insisting that it is to stop the spread of variants of COVID-19.
On the day following the previous directive at a press conference on October 27 held at Entebbe International Airport, the Honorable Minister of Health, Jane Ruth Achieng, was determined to continue with the initial testing process despite challenges she faced at the press conference, such as failing microphones, pouring rain, and overcrowding, to name a few.
Dissatisfaction with having to wait after testing, got the attention of legislators on the Parliamentary Committee on Tourism who summoned officials from the tourism sector to join the Ministry of Health (MOH), Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA), and other stakeholders involved in the implementation of the mandatory testing on arrival, to interact with the Parliamentary Committee on Health led by Vice Chairman, Hon. Ssebikaali Yoweri, on November 4, 2021, after which they inspected facilities at Entebbe International Airport.
Representatives from the tourism sector were Amos Wekesa of Great Lakes Safaris and Civy Tumisime, Chair of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators (AUTO). Wekesa reported cancellations from clients unwilling to go through unnecessary tests and delays while Tumusime made a plea for vaccinated tourists with negative PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) tests 72 hours prior to arrival to be allowed to proceed to their destinations without having to test on arrival.
To their relief and to the relief of the tourism industry in general, Achieng and the Ministry of Health bowed to the pressure.
The relationship between the Ministry of Health and tour operators has been at odds ever since sections of tour operators have questioned the rationale for testing and charging for those tests only at the airport and not at other entry points. The tour operators have accused the health sector of profiteering at the expense of the tourism sector. In turn, the health sector has frowned on tour operators, dismissing them for interfering with their work.
In a television interview on NTV that followed the directive, UCAA Public Affairs Manager Vianney Lugya admitted conceding to the ongoing pressure. He said: “Effective midnight, since we started implementing that decision, all passengers are allowed to proceed after their sample is picked, and they have gone through the immigration and arrival formalities. We started with Ethiopian Airlines after midnight; we also had Rwandair coming in as well as Egypt Air. This morning, we are expecting Uganda Airlines, Kenya Airways, and several other flights, and it is a great relief to the airport and to the air transport system.”
Regarding concerns about traceability, he said the health workers at the airport have so far tested 11,449 passengers and out of those only 43 have turned out positive.
“When you look at the bigger picture in terms of what has been happening, passengers arrive, a sample is picked, and … they are waiting for the results for about 2 1/2 hours. Take the example of someone who has flown from the US – a journey of close to 20 hours, including transit. That is the source of some of the complaints. So someone who is already tired, is subjected to waiting. There are several stakeholders involved in this matter. We are working closely with security, the banks, NITA (National Information Technology Authority) and others.
“We have assessed the situation, and we actually gave this advice. I can give you the example of Dubai where you are let to go to your hotel after a sample is picked. I went there a couple of weeks ago, and as soon as I reached my hotel, I received the results.
“We received feedback as passengers were complaining about having to wait, and this was discouraging some passengers from traveling. Signs of improvement since the directive came into effect have witnessed a smooth process with some tour operators, speaking on condition of anonymity, reporting their clients taking less than 20 minutes to clear with the procedures and proceed.
Tourists are encouraged to book online for priority testing here.