The ministry of Health has modified coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test guidelines for individuals intending to travel out of the country.
According to the press statement released on Monday, all outbound travellers must now present a 120-hour (5-day) and not a 72-hour negative test certificate as was previously required. The travellers must pay Shs 180,000 for their tests at the government testing facilities while those who opt to test at private facilities can also do so.
A copy of a bank slip showing payment must be provided at the testing facility before samples are picked. Results are to be released in 48 hours at the most and according to the statement, the count of the 5 days starts on the day samples are collected.
The certificate must also indicate travel as the intended purpose of the test. Further, contacts and alerts of previously confirmed cases will not be allowed to travel out of the country even if they present negative results. Ministry of Health spokesperson Emmanuel Ainebyoona told The Observer that it is because these contacts and alerts despite their negative results are supposed to be under isolation.
According to ministry of Health officials, the changes have been made to address emerging irregularities. Dr Henry Mwebesa, the director-general of health services, says that they were forced to make changes to the travel certificates because some travellers were being dishonest to benefit from the previously offered free testing.
"This is issued against the background that some travellers have been going to government testing centers claiming that they are contacts of previously confirmed cases hence tested for free, yet the actual purpose for the test was for travel," he said.
Mwebesa says they cannot allow such behaviour to go unchecked because it will defeat the intended purpose for all travellers to pay money to get tested.
"These travel certificates are supposed to bring back some money to the government. We cannot afford to test people going to travel for business purposes free of charge," Dr. Mwebesa explained.
According to Mwebesa, if people want to get tested from government facilities, they should pay Shs 180,000. He adds that a copy of a bank slip should be provided at the testing facility before samples are picked and results released in 48 hours at the most.
Data from the ministry show that on average 10,000 COVID-19 tests are carried out daily. 70 per cent of the testing is carried out by persons intending to travel.