Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the Minister of Health, while addressing the media at the health ministry headquarters on Friday, says the government will test all arriving passengers to curb the importation of COVID-19 variants into the country.
(L-R) Lt.Col.Dr.Henry Kyobe the COVID-19 Incident Commander, health minister Dr.Jane Ruth Aceng, the health ministry PS Dr.Diana Atwine and Dr.Isaac Ssewanyana incharge of Entebbe Airport Lab. Courtsey Photo
The Ministry of Health has defended the move to test all incoming
passengers including those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 at Entebbe
International Airport. The mandatory exercise started on October 27.
Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, the Minister of Health, while addressing the media at the
health ministry headquarters on Friday, says the government will test all
arriving passengers to curb the importation of COVID-19 variants into the
She said that vaccinated travellers will be tested because they
can also contract and transmit COVID-19.
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She also defended the move to use PCR machines instead of Rapid
Diagnostic Tests-RDTs. Rapid tests have a turnaround time of fewer than ten
minutes and are widely used by neighbouring countries including Kenya and
The ministry has installed eight polymerase chain reaction (PCR)
machines at the airport to test all incoming travellers. PCR is a test that
detects genetic material from a specific organism, such as a virus, which Dr
Aceng says is more reliable than RDTs in detecting the virus particularly among
covid-19 positive travellers who do not show signs and symptoms.
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Dr Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary at the health ministry,
says that the PCR tests are the gold standard for detecting the virus and also
in conducting confirmatory tests for presumptive positive samples.
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In its latest travel advice, after July 2nd, 2021, the World
Health Organisation-WHO recommended member states to lift measures such as
testing and quarantine of travellers who are fully vaccinated at least two
weeks before travelling with COVID-19 vaccines listed by WHO for Emergency Use
or approved by stringent regulatory authorities.
In the same advisory, WHO recommended that member states should
offer alternatives for unvaccinated travellers or travellers who do not have
proof of past infections such as through the use of negative PCR tests or
antigen detection rapid diagnostic tests (Ag-RDT).
The government commenced mandatory testing for all incoming
passengers regardless of their vaccination status on October 27.
But passengers have complained about the turnaround time and
congestion at various points, particularly sample collection and results
Each passenger will pay 30 US Dollars, about shillings 100,000 for
the test, regardless of whether he or she is fully vaccinated. Only children
below six years and fully vaccinated aircrews are exempted from mandatory
Aceng also noted that the ministry and other stakeholders
including National Information Technology Authority - Uganda-NITA-U, PostBank
and Uganda Civil Aviation Authority-UCAA are addressing communication, dispatch
of results, and payment challenges that have so far been identified during
mandatory testing at the airport.
She adds that five officials have been deployed to relay
information to the passengers including giving guidance on where they should go
for help. This is after some passengers complained about the absence of
officials to handle their complaints or direct them on where to proceed during
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The health ministry says 150 personnel including medics, data
entrants, and security officers have been deployed to implement the
exercise. It is estimated that the
airport handles an average of 1,100 arriving passengers per day.
For effective management, 30 sample collection booths have been
created. These booths can collect 30 samples every 5 minutes.
Also, eight PCR machines have been installed at the airport with
the capacity to test 300 samples per hour and 3,600 samples in 12 hours and
7,200 samples in 24 hours.
Aceng says the turnaround time is a maximum of 2 hours, adding that
passengers should fill in the pre-arrival online form and also make online
payments to "quicken the process of sample removal, testing and receiving
results upon arrival."