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Denmark boosts Entebbe airport’s reopening efforts

Entebbe airport screening tent

Entebbe airport screening tent

The Uganda government on September 8, 2020 received an assortment of equipment and supplies to help it handle resumption of commercial passenger flights at Entebbe International airport and track human movements along two busiest landing sites.

Sanusi Tejan Savage, chief of mission, International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Uganda, handed over the donation to Joy Kabatsi, minister of state for Transport.

Savage said the donation was a reply to a request by Uganda government through the UN Resident Coordinator for support toward enhancing the airport’s capacity to respond to Covid-19 challenges. Through a fundraising call, the government of

Denmark funded this project worth $800,000 (about Shs 3 billion). Savage added that this will be additional to support already given to the airport by the UK government and the World Food Programme, and will be executed by the IOM alongside the ministries of Internal Affairs, Works and Transport, and Health and other partners.

The project codenamed ‘Strengthening surveillance and early-warning systems to control Covid-19’ will reinforce disease surveillance and prevention at points of entry. It will target Entebbe airport and Kasensero and Kyotera landing sites at the start. It provides operational equipment for screening, laboratory operations, supplies and management of strategic information on population mobility and risk communication.

PROJECT SPECIFICS

In specific terms, the project entails, but not limited to:

Four standalone air conditioners including installation with drainage system;
One automatic computerized thermoscanner;
10 automated sanitizers (Saraya type);
One automatic walk-through booth disinfector with temperature reading;

Equipment and supplies including infection prevention and control, personal protective equipment such as infra thermometers, gloves, masks, gumboots, aprons, hand washing equipment, hand sanitizer, etc;
Screening services including facilitation of screeners and health workers to conduct screening for six months;

Capacity building of airport health authorities on Covid-19 on screening and infection prevention and control;
Support to data management process, including printing of the international health entry forms, provision of equipment (computers and mobile phones) to support the data collection process; and

For the laboratory services, the project will provide a GeneXpert machine, Covid-19 testing kits and personal protective equipment for the collection of samples and facilitate transportation of samples.

Savage added that IOM had also responded to government’s request by funding 196 vulnerable Ugandan migrants in Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates that were unable to cover their return travel costs. In the last two months, government put up special arrangements to bring in Ugandans stranded abroad due to the lockdown in many countries.  

Victoria Kajja, Migration Health Coordinator at IOM Uganda, said World Food Programme had earlier donated an isolation tent to the airport while the UK Department for International Development  donated a screening tent. She added that some of the IOM equipment had not arrived in the country due to the slowing effects of Covid-19 on global transportation.

While appreciating IOM’s contribution, Fred Bamwesigye, the acting director general of Uganda Civil Aviation Authority, said they would still need to buy more equipment to add on the donations. He disclosed that the UCCA had since the outbreak of Covid-19 put up standard operating procedures issued by the World Health Organisation and the International Civil Aviation Organisation, to ensure the safety of airport staff and passengers.

Bamwesigye said the airport did not close at all, because cargo and evacuation and repatriation flights continued.

“Pandemics are always happening; what is important is how we come out of them… Entebbe airport has never been closed; some days we were even busier than before. What we put on halt was commercial passenger flights. Therefore, we had to put in place the recommended SOPs and follow them,” he said.

Bamwesigye added that the UCCA and other airport stakeholders had put in place various interventions such as installation of automated sanitizers at various points within the terminal building; social distancing marks on the ground and on passenger waiting seats within the lounges; erection of glass shields at Immigration counters to avoid direct interface of immigration officers with passengers; similar glass shields are being erected at check-in counters; everyone in the airport environment must put on a face mask; there is mandatory temperature screening at all points of entry to the airport; and more space is being created in the waiting lounges by removing partitions to allow more social distancing.

AIRPORT TO OPEN OCTOBER 1

Meanwhile, authorities have announced that Entebbe airport will resume handling commercial passenger flights on October 1.
A September 8 communication signed by Eng. Ayub Sooma, the UCAA director for Airports and Aviation Security, said the airport would handle 13 flights on the first day and 10 on the second day, and then the numbers would increase gradually.

This phase one of the reopening will last three months. However, the president has to first approve this schedule of the reopening.

jmusinguzi@observer.ug

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