By Rogers Wanambwa
KIU, Main Campus –The Government of Uganda has banned flights to and from India following a sudden rise in COVID-19 infections and deaths in the Asian country.
As a country, India has so far reported more than 19 million cases of COVID-19 with over 218,000 deaths. The country is also in a crisis with an acute scarcity of essential supplies such as oxygen and ventilators for the overflowing critical cases to health facilities. Today, Monday India recorded another 3,422 new coronavirus deaths and 370,000 new cases.
Accordingly, Health Minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng told journalists on Friday that Uganda has so far recorded one case of the Indian strain of the COVID-19 virus that is feared to be lethal. She said starting May 1, only those Ugandan nationals will be allowed back in the country.
The ban also affects travelers that have traveled through India in the last 14 days. For travelers arriving from India Aceng says they are expected to have a negative PCR COVID-19 test certificate conducted 120 hours from the time of sample collection and will undergo another mandatory PCR test on arrival.
Dr. Aceng says that once found positive, they will be isolated at their own cost in a preapproved hotel whereas those that test negative will undergo self-quarantine at their residences. Besides, the only exempted flights from the ban are cargo flights, technical stops where travelers don’t leave the flight, and operations related to humanitarian work, medical evacuation, or approved diplomatic flights.
As it is, there are five circulating strains of coronavirus in Uganda including the Ugandan strain which has already been seen in 34 other countries. The other strains include the South African, Nigerian, and the United Kingdom variant.
She however noted that travelers who have been fully vaccinated don’t need to test on arrival in the country. Presently, while India has vaccinated 11 percent of its entire population, Uganda has only vaccinated 0.7 percent of the population with the first jab in an exercise that is only picking up now with fears of resurging infection.
However, Dr. Yonas Tegegn Woldermariam, the World Health Organization Country Representative, said that even with such small vaccination figures Uganda is among the countries performing well as far as uptake in Africa is concerned. He urged countries not to be troubled about the circulating news of vaccine expiries noting that countries that have destroyed or returned their jabs have only wasted them.