Kampala, Uganda – The Ministry of Health will start retesting all labour export workers a day before they depart the country.
Dr. Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary of the health ministry, says the move stems from the number of migrant workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 at their final destinations.
In a letter dated July 8th, 2021, Atwine wrote to the Permanent Secretary at the ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development to issue the “Interim measures for migrant workers exiting Entebbe International Airport. The measures will take effect on July 11 at 12am.
Atwine said the measures will “protect the credibility of the country’s health system at meeting international obligations” and also “to deter further blacklisting of Uganda from international travel arrangements”.
Last month the United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom banned flights from Uganda due to the surging number of COVID-19 cases.
The measures were developed after officials from the ministries of health and gender, Uganda Civil Aviation Authority and Entebbe Port Health met last month.
As a result, all migrant workers must present a negative PCR Test certificate issued within 72 hours before their departure flight and thereafter be re-tested at Entebbe Airport. The test will be free.
Atwine said a government laboratory will conduct the free PCR confirmatory test for these travelers 24 hours before their flight.
Ronnie Mukundane, the Spokesperson of Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies (UERA) opposed the measures. He wants government to release the number of migrant workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 at their final destinations.
“But even without figures, is it only migrant workers who have tested positive after leaving the country? No. Recently the National Rugby team had players who tested positive and other groups of travelers have tested positive at their final destinations.”
He therefore thinks all travelers should be re-tested.
“So if travelers are being retested at the airport, what does it say about the accredited testing centres?” Mukundane asked.
He also said travelers will have to wait for long hours to get their test results and they also could easily contract COVID-19 due to the resultant congestion at the airport.
Mukundane said the association, with over 200 members, will engage with the ministry of gender over the measures so that the health ministry rethinks the move.
The spokesperson of the Ministry of Health, Emmanuel Ainebyoona had not responded to concerns raised by the labour companies by press time.
Hillary Taremwa, the head of the labour externalization unit at the ministry of gender, urged the labour companies to comply with the measures. He however said the health ministry has not provided statistics on how many migrant workers have recently tested positive at their final destinations.