Described as one of the ‘heartbeat’ and a very vital asset to Uganda’s economy, Entebbe International Airport has today Thursday, October 1, 2020, opened its runways to commercial passenger flights that had to be suspended on March 22, 2020, to control the spread of the pandemic that has shaken the global world, the aviation industry inclusive and as a result, the impact has been felt financially.
While addressing the media on Tuesday ahead of the resumption of commercial passenger flights on Thursday, Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) Acting Director-General Fred Bamwesigye, reiterated that the aviation industry is slowly getting back to its feet by adjusting to the new way of doing business with the observance of health standard operating procedures (SOPs) that present new challenges to airport authorities, airlines, and passengers.
“Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) in conjunction with air operators have drawn a plan for resumption of flights in phases with the first phase covering the period from October to December 2020, which is expected to have scaled operations. With time, the operations will be increased, and we plan to have more flights in the second phase covering six months starting in January 2021 and we shall continue to review the situation as and when the situation changes,” revealed Bamwesigye.
“UCAA has in conjunction with airport stakeholders put in place a number of interventions and standard operating procedures to address the challenges occasioned by the Pandemic on air travel because with the easing of the travel restrictions in many countries, no one can afford to be left behind in the implementation of health travel SOPs, many of which have been harmonized with guidance from international oversight bodies,” Bamwesigye added.
Some of the interventions that Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) has undertaken to control the spread of the pandemic at Entebbe International Airport include among others;
The waiting lounges at the departures have been redesigned to create more space by removing the partitions to create open lounges that accord more space for social distancing. Passengers can be facilitated while this is being completed, wearing of masks is mandatory within the Airport’s terminal building and anyone without a mask will be denied entry and frequently touched surfaces are regularly disinfected and this will continue, but passengers are also reminded to avoid unnecessary touching of surfaces, and to sanitize after touching documents or surfaces and announcements to this effect are being aired on the Public Address System whenever there is any flight being facilitated.
Automated sanitizers at various points within the terminal building have been installed, social distancing marks on the ground, and on passenger waiting seats within the lounges have been put in place and glass shields have been erected at Immigration and Check-in counters to avoid direct interface of Airport staff with the passengers.
Temperature screening is emphasized at all points of entry to the Airport and a Thermo scanner is deployed in some areas and it detects the temperature of anyone within a 30 meters radius.
Departing passengers will be urged to report to the airport 4 hours prior to their flight departure time to cater for additional time that will be spent going through the added Health screening procedures on top of all the other existing security regulations.
Aircraft will also be disinfected on landing after passengers have disembarked before others board and according to Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, passenger aircraft that have more flights in a day will be restricted to one flight in a day with the exception of Uganda Airlines.
All departing passengers shall present authentic and valid COVID-19 polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test certificate issued within 120 hours before travel and all arriving passengers shall possess authentic and valid COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test certificate issued within 72 hours before boarding aircraft in-bound to Uganda.
And in special circumstances where departing passengers are not required to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test certificate in the country of destination, such passengers should ensure that they have clearance from the destination country so as to be allowed to board.
Airlines shall not board any passenger coming to Uganda without a negative COVID-19 PCR test and any arriving passenger without the negative COVID-19 PCR test shall be denied entry and the Airline shall be obliged to take back the passenger and in the unlikely event that a returning Ugandan comes without COVID-19 PCR test, they will be allowed to enter the country but shall have the test done at their cost at $65, and quarantined at own cost till the results are out.
A passenger who exhibits signs and symptoms of an infectious disease shall be transported in an ambulance to an isolation center (Entebbe Referral Hospital) for a COVID-19 test. The results shall be returned within 24-48 hours as the passenger remains in the isolation center and incase a foreign national tests positive and wishes to be repatriated for treatment in another facility outside Uganda, this shall be done at their cost following medical evacuation protocols.
“All the service providers at Entebbe International Airport have been taken through the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and we are continuously encouraging members of the public that will be accessing Entebbe Airport to abide by the SOPs and only passenger(s) and their driver will be granted access to the passenger terminal to avoid crowding,” Bamwesigye revealed.
The Aviation Industry is very well known to be compliant when it comes to enforcement of safety regulations and I have no doubt in the capacity of the international aviation in ensuring practical and effective enforcement of the safety precautionary measures for the good of all air transport users.