Uganda's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced on Thursday, September 10, that it was preparing to reopen Entebbe International Airport (EBB) for commercial flights from October 1 as the government continues the gradual easing of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions. Entebbe, the country's only international airport, has been closed to commercial flights since March 22, with only air freight operations and specially authorized repatriation flights being permitted from the facility. However, the government has been under increasing pressure to resume international travel since it began easing some COVID-19 restrictions in July, including the reopening of some non-essential businesses and shortening the national overnight curfew to 21:00 - 05:30 (local time).
Specific public health restrictions and hygiene measures are currently being prepared for the resumption of commercial international flights, although details are yet to be announced by the government. As in other countries in the region, it is likely that travelers to the country will need to present evidence of a negative COVID-19 test result from within 72 hours prior to their arrival. Temperature screening is also expected to be in place for all arrivals.
Although Uganda's COVID-19 restrictions, initially among the strictest in the continent, have been eased since July 22, schools, places of worship, and bars remain closed and public gatherings restricted to a maximum of five people. Face masks must also be worn at all times outside of private residences.
As of Friday, September 11, authorities have confirmed 4291 cases of COVID-19 in Uganda with 48 associated deaths. Further international spread of the virus is to be expected over the near term.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on December 31 and the source of the outbreak has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan (Hubei province, China). Since then, human-to-human transmission of the virus has been confirmed. Cases of the virus have been confirmed in numerous countries and territories worldwide. On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global outbreak a pandemic. Virus-screening and quarantining measures are being implemented at airports worldwide, as well as extensive travel restrictions.
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are fever, dry cough, and tiredness. Some patients may experience other symptoms such as body pains, nasal congestion, headache, conjunctivitis, sore throat, diarrhea, loss of taste or smell, or a rash on skin or discoloration of fingers or toes. These symptoms (in most cases mild) appear gradually. Generally, most patients (around 80 percent) recover from the disease without being hospitalized.
Measures adopted by local authorities evolve quickly, and are usually effective immediately. Depending on the evolution of the outbreak in other countries, authorities are likely to modify, at very short notice, the list of countries whose travelers are subject to border control measures or entry restrictions upon their arrival to the territory in question. It is advised to postpone nonessential travel due to the risk that travelers may be refused entry or be subject to quarantine upon their arrival or during their stay.
To reduce the risk of transmission, travelers are advised to abide by the following measures:
- Frequently clean hands by applying an alcohol-based hand rub or washing with soap and water.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue; if used, throw the tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- If experiencing a fever, cough, difficulty breathing, or any other symptoms suggestive of respiratory illness, including pneumonia, call emergency services before going to the doctor or hospital to prevent the potential spread of the disease.
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