Uganda to implement compulsory COVID-19 test

Uganda to implement compulsory COVID-19 test
Uganda’s Minister of Health, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng (photo credit: screengrab)

JUBA – The Ugandan government has announced a mandatory COVID test for travelers that will be entering its borders effective September 3.

The decision came from Uganda’s Ministry of Health which announced a compulsory PCR test at the costs of the travelers to curb infections, particularly from new emerging variants.

The country initially relied on the COVID-19 certificate with a validity of 72 hours to clear travelers plying its airspace and roads.

But according to the new directive issued by the country’s Minister of Health, Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, the certificate will no longer get a traveler off the hook.

Kampala has said the test will be billed to the traveler and if found positive, individuals will be quarantined straight away.

“All travelers (including children) irrespective of vaccination status or country of origin, are required to arrive with a negative PCR test done 72 hours prior to travel and will be required to undergo mandatory screening and carry out a PCR test at their own cost at all points of entry, including Entebbe International Airport,” Dr. Aceng said.

“Any traveler (national or non-national), who tests positive for Covid-19, will be evacuated by the Ministry of Health to the designated Covid-19 isolation facility,” the Minister added.

Previously, travelers who tested positive would be given a window for isolation at their place of preference. This window has been scrapped with exception of children.

The new measures seek to prevent the importation of more deadly variants of the virus that has so far killed 2,939 people in Uganda.

Dr. Aceng said her ministry would undertake a Rapid Assessment Survey to establish, among others, the distribution of variants in the country.

Some mutations of the virus such as the alpha variant and the delta variant — discovered first in the UK and India, respectively — have been more transmissible than previous iterations of the virus and have gone on to dominate globally.

Deadly variants detected

Uganda has so far registered at least five Covid-19 variants, including the delta, and now seeks to contain the spread as the country struggles to vaccinate citizens.

The ministry has also revised the categories of countries that were earlier flagged as high risk, removing India from category one to category two effective Friday.

This means that passenger flights from India will be allowed, but travelers still have to meet the new requirements.

Uganda suspended flights from India in April when the country was hit by the deadly delta variant.

Travelers from countries, including Kenya, South Africa, and the United States that were flagged in category two will also have to meet the new guidelines.

Dr. Aceng, however, said effective September 3, Uganda will cease categorizing countries, and the new measures will apply to all travelers from all countries, regardless of vaccination status.

She said despite the drop in daily cases, positivity rate, and a number of critically ill patients, the country faces an adverse looming third wave if the population neglects adherence to standard operating procedures.

Projections by scientists show that in the event of a third wave, 4,000 people will contract the virus daily.

“Projections from our scientists show that the 3rd wave of the pandemic is likely to peak at 4,000 laboratory-confirmed cases per day…higher than the second wave,” she said.

“This means that 15 percent of the patients will require admission at the health facility and about 89,311 patients may require HDU/ICU admissions,” Dr. Aceng added.

The new measure could be a major blow for South Sudanese seeking to enter Uganda within the specified timeframe.

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