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Dos and don’ts about Uganda’s COVID-19 travel restrictions and flight bans

An aeroplane representing travel

Like many countries around the world, Uganda completely went into lockdown at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. Uganda President Yoweri Museveni first made the lockdown announcement on 1 April 2020.

Since flights were high risk, all international flights into Uganda were suspended. Only aircraft in a state of emergency, operations related to humanitarian aid, medical and relief flights, technical landings where passengers do not disembark, and safety-related operation flights were exempted from the initial flight ban. Land borders were also closed.

Months later, travel restrictions are being lifted and flight bans are being relaxed. Yet, there are still several safety measures that people looking to travel to Uganda must be aware of. In this article, we give insights into every detail you should know about flight bans and travel restrictions in Uganda.

Travel and COVID-19

Why is travel dangerous in COVID-19 times? The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, says about travel and COVID-19 that “[it] increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19.”

If you can afford to, don’t travel. However, there are many reasons why some people may need to travel amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Work, school, family, humanitarian efforts and so on are some of these reasons.

Yet, you should note that travelers are at high risk because it is difficult to social distance at airports, bus stations and train stations.

Uganda travel safety regulations

In June 2020, President Yoweri Museveni started easing COVID-19 lockdown measures relating to travel to Uganda. The relaxation came just in time to allow UN Staff on humanitarian official missions to enter the country. However, it was not until October 2020 that Entebbe International Airport resumed operation.

The Kampala- Entebbe Airport remained closed. Meanwhile, cargo flights were permitted with crew members who must observe strict guidelines including screening measures. In relation to the WHO and CDC directives, here are some of the rules guiding travel to Uganda during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before you travel to Uganda or out of Uganda

1.    Ahead of your trip to Uganda or out of the country, you should first talk to your doctor for advice. This is especially important if you are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

2.    If the COVID-19 vaccine is available in your country and you are eligible, then, you should get vaccinated. Since your body takes some days to build protection after any vaccination, you should wait at least two weeks after getting the second vaccine dose before you travel, assuming you take the two-dose type such as the Moderna and the Pfizer Biontech vaccines.

3.    You should familiarize yourself with the Entebbe International Airport or airline COVID-19 rules. For example; Turkish Airlines requires a Travel Permit Document for passengers 65 and older for domestic flights (including connecting flights). While Ethiopian Airlines says it thoroughly cleans and disinfects all departing aircraft.

Uganda COVID-19 tests

In a signed press release on 23 November 2020, the Uganda Ministry of Health announced new travel COVID-19 test rules. Dr Henry G. Mwebesa wrote that individuals intending to travel out of Uganda must pay for a COVID-19 test. Also, their COVID-19 certificates must indicate “TRAVEL” as the purpose of the test.

The announcement was aimed at addressing situations where people who wanted to travel were able to get free test certificates at Government testing centers by claiming that they are contacts to previously confirmed cases.

Thus, tests for ‘contacts’ and ‘alerts’ will bear their appropriate labels and will not be admissible for travel purposes.

In addition to the above change, the Uganda Ministry of Health also said that all International travelers must have COVID-19 negative certificates taken within 120 hours before departure or arrival in Uganda. This is a change from its previous 72 hours requirement.

TestXpress is a government-approved COVID-19 test center where you can get your required COVID-19 test results. The center works in partnership with Kazuir Medical to offer professional, accurate, time sensitive services. Our highly trained medical team and state-of-the-art facility are among the best in the country and you are assured of professional service from experienced and highly trained staff.

TestXpress offers both Walk-in testing and Home call Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) testing, with results available within 24 hours.

However, if you were exposed to COVID-19, are sick, or test positive for COVID-19, you should not travel.

During travel to Uganda or out of Uganda

If you have completed all the requirements for travel to Uganda or out of the country, then, here are steps you can take to protect yourself and others from COVID-19:

  • Wear a mask over your nose and mouth when in public. Airlines require masks if you are traveling to or out of Uganda
  • Avoid crowds and stay a minimum of 6 feet/2 meters (about 2 arm lengths) when you can
  • Wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol
  • Take extra masks and hand sanitizers along with you
  • Avoid contact with anyone who is sick or appears to be
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose, and mouth during travel

On arrival to your destination

When travelers arrive in Uganda, they may be subjected to some of the following procedures. For returning Ugandan citizens, they will not be required to quarantine if they have a negative PCR test result. However, health officials may conduct routine follow-up checks on them and those close to them at their homes.

For tourists and business visitors with negative PCR test results, they are advised to go directly to their accommodations and limit their physical contact with Ugandan citizens.

At the port of entry, Ugandan health officials will screen all arriving passengers. If any traveler displays symptoms of COVID-19, they will be placed in isolation while they await their test result. If a foreign national tests positive for COVID-19, they can fund their own repatriation.

Children below the age of three do not need a COVID-19 negative test certificate to travel as long as any adult accompanying them has one.

All travelers should maintain social distancing when they arrive in Uganda to limit the risk of COVID-19 infection. It doesn’t end here, CDC advises that after traveling, you should do the following:

  1. Take a COVID-19 viral test within three to five days after your journey
  2. Stay indoors and self-quarantine for seven days
  3. If you don’t take a test on your return, self-quarantine for 10 days on your return
  4. Stay away from people at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days
  5. Wear masks when in public
  6. Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol

 

Enforcing COVID-19 travel regulations in Uganda

Ugandan authorities go to great lengths to enforce COVID-19 travel regulations in the country. In December 2020, Nigerian singers Omah Lay and Tems were arrested for flouting coronavirus guidelines when they held a concert in Uganda. Their arrest led to a massive uproar on social media with millions of posts about the incident across Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

On Christmas Day, the Uganda Police Force arrested more than 300 people for allegedly violating health regulations designed to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The authorities had found several bars that disregarded the Ministry of Health guidelines and that had not observed the curfew.

These examples show how serious the country is taking its fight against the pandemic and it is important for both visitors and citizens not to fall short in any regard.

Conclusion

While travel restrictions are not as tight as they were at the beginning of the pandemic, Ugandan authorities are not giving travelers much leeway. Travel regulations have to be followed as strictly as possible and you can start this by first getting tested at a government certified laboratory center like TestXpress. Our results are accurate and we offer professional services.  Government officials and all airports accept our result.

Finally, to avoid conflicting with the COVID-19 taskforce, adhere to the regulations listed out above and keep yourself updated on newer travel regulations.