Entebbe airport has since March 23, been closed to passenger flights save for those being repatriated in and out of Uganda. The move as per president Museveni’s directive, was aimed at controlling the spread of Covid-19. However, the Ugandan Covid-19 task force recommended that Entebbe airport and schools be reopened on October 1, after a set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are put in place. In a letter dated September 8, to airline operators, Eng. Ayub Sooma the director for airports and aviation security attached what he termed as a tentative schedule for international passenger flights for a period of three months effective from October 1.
However, Mr. Vianney Luggya the Public affairs manager for Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) clarified that the letter spells out a tentative schedule that is being discussed with Air operators for planning purposes. “We still await government’s official pronouncement of the exact date for resumption of commercial passenger operations,” noted Mr. Luggya, adding that the schedule can always be adjusted accordingly.
The reopening of the airport has had a long wait with several Ugandans and legal residents, home and abroad crying out for repatriation as they return or leave the country. However, Mr. Fred Bamwesigye, the UCAA acting director general earlier noted that the re-opening of Entebbe airport will be guided by the global health community and global aviation community. “All our efforts are geared towards putting in place the necessary health standards against Covid19. But still, we can not be ready alone. Other airports must be ready as well,” Mr. Bamwesigye had earlier stated.
The aviation boss further noted that there are ongoing efforts to create more space in the waiting lounges, to create more space for social distancing. Three large executive tents funded by the Department for International Development, were mounted by the World Food Programme(WFP) at the airside to handle processes for airport health in ample space. “The tents will enable us to address Covid19 requirements such as social distancing, temperature screening, profiling and observation of arriving passengers,” Eng. Sooma had explained earlier.
Dr. James Eyul the incharge of medical services at Entebbe airport intimated that aircraft operators have been notified to release not more than 50passengers at ago, upon landing at Entebbe airport.
As part of the SOPs, all incoming passengers shall be required to test for Covid19 before boarding the plane to Uganda, and likewise, those leaving Uganda for other countries, shall be required to have valid health certificates from the health ministry or undergo a rapid test at the airport before departure. “Glass shields are to be introduced at check-in booths to reduce direct contact between the airport staff and passengers,” assured Eng. Sooma.
According to the new plan, all doors in the airport terminal are planned to be converted to automatic sensor opening non-touchable doors plus all water taps to be replaced with non-touchable taps. Mr. Luggya the UCAA public relations manager explained that the Sh150b bail-out earlier requested by UCAA from government, is meant to meet maintenance, operational and other associated costs for this whole financial year 2020/2021. “UCAA substantially finances recurrent and development expenditure using internally generated revenue, which is not available at the moment and yet we have to ensure smooth operations amidst the additional and urgent requirements occasioned by Covid19,” explained Mr. Luggya.