Following several posts and video clips that were circulating on social media on Thursday morning, there were a series of meetings held at Entebbe airport involving several stakeholders. The first closed-door meeting was chaired by Dr. Henry Mwebesa, the director for health services in the ministry of health before Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, the minister for health, headed to the airport for the same. After several hours of the closed-door meeting, the prime minister Robinah Nabbanja rushed to Entebbe airport to ascertain the situation.
However, the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) clarified on the mandatory testing of all incoming passengers at Entebbe airport. Vianney Luggya the UCAA public relations manager said 678 passengers were tested on the first day after the exercise had kicked off.
He noted that out of the total number of samples tested, three turned out positive whereas two passengers had forged PCR test results from where they were coming from. “And out of the total number of passengers who were tested, 95% received their results within two hours and only 5% experienced a slight delay in the release of test results,” Luggya intimated.
He went ahead to explain that the 5% passengers whose results were delayed, had not filled in their medical information on time, prior to coming to the airport while others had issues of payment, whereby, they had to clear the required US$10 (shs100,000) among other challenges that come with doing something for the first time. “Unfortunately, social media users exaggerated the situation when they took a video of a very specific moment and created an impression as though that was prevailing throughout,” added Luggya.
Wednesday was the first day when all passengers coming in through Entebbe airport were subjected to mandatory COVID-19 testing. Earlier, the testing was subjected to only passengers from category two countries but the arrangement was shifted from Penniel beach to the airport, following a cabinet decision.
Tourists accorded special arrangement
In the new arrangement, tourists are only required to register at a desk for the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) situated at Entebbe airport, record the details of the hotel where they may have booked in, and be allowed to proceed after sample collection.
When a tourist’s sample comes out negative, communications are made and in case the sample is positive, the tourists shall be followed from the hotel they’d have booked in, and taken to a designated facility for treatment.
In regard to why the testing started on Wednesday, days after president Museveni commissioned the testing, Luggya said, international protocols require that airlines are communicated to, at least 48hours before effecting such directives.
He expressed optimism that the exercise is going to be better than it has been. Samples are collected from each traveller upon landing at Entebbe airport and they later proceed to the new terminal complex from where they wait for their results.
The health ministry set up the testing laboratories at the airport and trained laboratory technicians, data entrants and all the other support health staff to manage the process. The turnaround time for the mandatory COVID-19 test results was reduced from four hours to two hours and 15 minutes.
Five PCR test machines with capacity to test 300 samples per hour are in place and the facility has the capacity to test 3,600 passengers in 12 hours. Government also reduced the cost of a COVID-19 test from $65 (sh231,935) to $30 (sh107,047).
Other requirements for arriving passengers
Before departure from the country of origin to Entebbe airport, passengers are advised to pay an online fee of US$300 for a PCR test to be conducted upon their arrival at Entebbe airport. On arrival, all passengers are required to go through the recommended port health procedures of identifying body temperatures and thereafter, take a COVID-19 swab for testing. However, transit passengers are exempted from this process.
After a sample has been collected, passengers are directed back to the terminal to go through the immigration process. From the customs area, they exit the terminal to an arranged passenger holding area to wait for the results. The whole process takes a maximum of two hours and fifteen minutes.