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COVID-19: Entebbe Airport prepared to re-open

By Julius Luwemba

Added 11th September 2020 04:36 PM

If all goes according to plan, Qatar Airways flight QR 1385 will be the first to touch down at Entebbe Airport on October 1.

COVID-19: Entebbe Airport prepared to re-open

Fred Bamwesigye, the acting UCAA director general, said reopening of the airport will be guided by the global health and global aviation communities.

If all goes according to plan, Qatar Airways flight QR 1385 will be the first to touch down at Entebbe Airport on October 1.

AIRPORT|AIR TRAVEL|COVID-19|UCAA

ENTEBBE - It is now more than five months since Entebbe Airport was closed to passenger flights, save for those repatriating stranded people in and out of Uganda.

The move, as per President Yoweri Museveni's directive, was aimed at controlling the spread of COVID-19.

However, the spirits of travel enthusiasts were lifted this week, when the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) announced the first tentative schedule for international passenger flights for a period of three months effective October 1.

If all goes according to plan, Qatar Airways flight QR 1385 will be the first to touch down at Entebbe Airport on October 1.

It will depart from Doha, with a stopover at Entebbe before proceeding to Kigali, its final destination, according to a letter by Eng Ayub Sooma, the UCAA director for airports and aviation security, to managers of airlines operating in the country.

Fred Bamwesigye, the acting UCAA director general, said reopening of the airport will be guided by the global health and global aviation communities.

"All our efforts are geared towards putting in place the necessary health standards against COVID-19. But still, we cannot be ready alone. Other airports must be ready as well," Bamwesigye said in July.

There have been efforts to create more space in the waiting lounges to enable social distancing. Three large executive tents funded by the Department for International Development were erected by the World Food Programme (WFP) airside to provide ample space for the handling of the airport's health processes.

Eng. Sooma said: "The tents will enable us to address COVID-19 requirementssuch as social distancing, temperature screening, profiling and observation of arriving passengers."


Not more than 50

Dr James Ejul, the officer in charge of medical services at Entebbe Airport, said aircraft operators have been notified to release not more than 50 passengers at ago, upon landing at the airport.

As part of the standard operating procedures (SOPs), all arriving passengers shall be required to test for COVID-19 before boarding the plane to Uganda. Likewise, those leaving Uganda for other countries shall also be required to have valid health certificates from the health ministry or undergo a rapid test at the airport before departure.

"Glass shields are to be introduced at check-in booths to reduce direct contact between the airport staff and passengers," Eng. Sooma said.

According to the new plan, all doors in the airport terminal will be converted to automatic sensor opening non-touchable ones while all water taps will be replaced with non-touchable ones.

Vianney Luggya, the UCAA publicist, said the sh150b bail-out earlier requested by UCAA from the Government, is meant to meet maintenance, operational and other associated costs for this financial year (2020/2021).

"UCAA substantially finances recurrent and development expenditure using internally generated revenue, which is not available at the moment, and yet, we have to ensure smooth operations amidst the additional and urgent requirements occasioned byCOVID-19," Luggya said.

President Yoweri Museveni closed Uganda's airspace to passengers on March 23, 2020, as one of the lockdown measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Cargo traffic continued.

Although several activities have resumed in the phased lifting of the lockdown, passenger airlines have not been allowed yet, save those bringing back Ugandans who were stranded abroad.

As part of the preparations, the UN on Tuesday donated to UCAA a batch of equipment and sanitiser.

The national task force on COVID-19 recently recommended that Entebbe Airport and schools be reopened on October 1, after a set of SOPs are put in place.

However, Luggya has since clarified that what UCAA has issued is a tentative schedule, awaiting President Museveni's final announcement on the reopening of the airport.

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