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Another 514 Stranded Ugandans Return Home from USA, Qatar

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Those who returned today include members of the Melody and Sozo Choirs of Watoto Church who were stranded in the United States of America where they had gone for a series of activities. The teams which were stranded in Texas, Virginia and Alabama over the last four months were flagged off from the US on Friday by Ugandan officials led by Ambassador Mull Katende.
Some of the returnees who did not observe social distancing to get their luggage
Another group of 514 Ugandans and legal residents has returned from the United States of America, the Caribbean and Qatar, ending three mo this evening. The Ugandans were stranded abroad when the government announced the closure of borders to control the spread of coronavirus Disease in March.

Those who returned today include members of the Melody and Sozo Choirs of Watoto Church who were stranded in the United States of America where they had gone for a series of activities.  The teams which were stranded in Texas, Virginia and Alabama over the last four months were flagged off from the US on Friday by Ugandan officials led by Ambassador Mull Katende.

The first group arrived at Entebbe airport at 5:05 p.m. with 276 people on board, all from the United States. Ten minutes later, Qatar Airlines also landed with 238 returnees from Qatar, leading to lengthy queues at the airside,  from where the two planes parked to the arrivals section. 

While in the queue, none of the returnees observed social distancing guidelines although each wore a face mask. They were, however, disinfected at the entrance of the arrivals section before proceeding for screening and processing of travel documents at the immigration desks. 

After screening at Entebbe Airport, the 514 returnees will undergo institutional quarantine for a minimum of 14-days. The group was received by Ambassador Alfred Naam, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other government officials.

He explained that the majority of the passengers are holders of US visitors visas, student and research fellow visas and Ugandan resident permit holders who failed to travel back after the closure of all land borders and Entebbe International Airport on March 23, 2020.

Katende also noted that the second group of 88 passengers including 26 members of Watoto Children's Choir will depart from Canada, South America and the Caribbean today July 18, 2020, and arrive in Entebbe on Sunday, July 19. Due to similar travel restrictions in both North and South America, Katende said the embassy had to create multiple departure locations to ensure that all those stranded could return to Uganda. 

Although the registration and repatriation process was complex because the embassy covers both North and South America, Katenda says it was eased by the efforts of the three embassies of Uganda in Washington, DC and New York, USA and Ottawa, Canada.  Each passenger paid USD 1500 (5.5million Shillings) for the special flight that was arranged through Satguru Travel Solutions and Ethiopian Airlines. 

Meanwhile, Dr Stephen Chemoiko Chebrot, the Ambassador of Uganda to Qatar says the 238 from Qatar "tested negative  for COVID-19  and confirmed fit to travel." He adds that 245  stranded Ugandan citizens and residents are expected to return to the country on Thursday, July 24, 2020.