Sources involved in the planning meetings of the inter-ministerial committee that is in charge of the exercise say that the government plans to spend Shillings 70 billion on setting up the laboratory, sample collection and waiting areas among other items at the airport.
The government could
spend close to Shillings
70 billion to set up and operate the testing
centre for arriving passengers at Entebbe International Airport. Mandatory COVID-19 testing for all in-bound passengers is expected to
commence next week.
Initially, the Ministry of Health had proposed that
effective September 3, all incoming passengers regardless of whether or not
they are vaccinated against COVID-19 should undergo mandatory testing at
Entebbe Airport. However, on September 2, the inter-ministerial committee
postponed the exercise by two weeks to ensure passengers are tested with
Last week, President Yoweri Museveni postponed the commencement of the exercise by
another two weeks during a televised address on Wednesday. Sources involved in the planning meetings of
the inter-ministerial committee that is in charge of the exercise say that the
government plans to spend Shillings 70 billion on setting up the laboratory, sample collection and waiting
areas among other items at the airport.
Shillings 15 billion is meant for the establishment and equipping of the laboratory while Shillings
40 billion will cater for its operations and
consumables such as reagents. Last week, personnel from the Uganda
People’s Defence Forces-UPDF Engineering Brigade visited the airport to
assess the possible location for the laboratory, tents for sample collection and
waiting areas for the incoming passengers.
The balance of Shillings 15 billion has been allocated to the
Uganda Civil Aviation Authority-UCAA to complete the construction of the
extension to the passenger terminal. The Inter-ministerial committee chaired by Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja is however still discussing where to set up the
testing centre at the airport.
But some of the proposals include setting up a
laboratory on the second floor of the extension block at the passenger
terminal building, which is
still incomplete. While waiting tents for passengers waiting for their test results will be erected adjacent to the exit of the arrivals section.
Some sources say the government wants to also set
up a Port Health desk and tents for sample collection at the airside so that all passengers
test before heading to the immigration booths. At the Port Health desk,
very sick passengers and VVIPs will be tested first followed by tourists and
Very sick passengers and tourists will be
allowed to depart the airport and will get their results either from home or at
designated hotels. With a daily average of 1,100 incoming passengers at the airport,
sources say the inter-ministerial committee wants the centre at the airport to
release results in less than two hours.
Last week, Dr. Richard Mugahi, the MOH Assistant
Commissioner for Reproductive Health and the supervisor Entebbe Airport testing
centre told the media that the ministry is installing five PCR machines in the
machines have the capacity of testing 300 samples per hour. As a result,
the laboratory can test 3,600 travellers in 12 hours and 7,200 travellers
in 24 hours. Vianney Luggya, the spokesperson of UCAA, however, says
discussions are still ongoing. "So, whatever you have is not
conclusive," he told our reporter.
He says that the inter-ministerial committee is still discussing the locations for
the laboratory, waiting areas and mode of payment of the 30 USD for the tests. Some of the proposals include passengers paying
for the tests before arriving at the airport, paying using Visa cards, through
the bank or mobile money on landing.
Atwine, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health, says that the government has not
yet finalised how the testing centre will be operated and other related matters.
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Luggya says that as the government prepares for the mandatory testing,
private laboratories will continue testing arriving passengers from selected
countries. Since May, only passengers from ten countries that
include India, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates among
others have been subjected to mandatory testing if they are not fully
The health ministry approved Test and Fly and
Safari Lab to test arriving passengers at Peniel Beach gardens, almost two
kilometres away from the airport. Each passenger who is eligible for the test pays US$ 65 US (about Shillings 250,000) from the arrivals section.
They exit through a sealed path to ensure
they do not mix up with the general public. They are thereafter asked to board
buses from the parking lot, under the strict surveillance of both health
workers and security officers. The buses then take the passengers to the
testing centre at Peniel Beach.