Government Sets Strict SOP’s Ahead of Reopening Entebbe International Airport
Prior to reopening Entebbe International Airport, the government has set strict aviation guidelines for airlines and passengers. Dr Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary to Health Ministry, confirmed this and said that the steps were planned to allow airlines to return to the sky, as well as to keep passengers healthy and prevent the COVID 19 pandemic from spreading.
Dr Atwine said the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) would initially tackle risks and ensure safeguards for travellers were placed in place.
“There is a plan to reopen Entebbe International Airport but we will wait for scientists to give us a report on the standard operating procedures (SoPs) presented to them by UCAA before a decision is reached to reopen the facility,” she said.
Sources at UCCA said that some of the steps allow every traveller to arrive early, always wear face covers, maintain social distance, wash or use sanitizers and have a long slow check-in process.
The airport shall not be open to travellers who have any of the signs of the latest coronavirus.
The airports have now opened again in Rwanda and Kenya. Both countries emphasized the need to follow the health guidelines by travellers.
On 22 March, President Museveni shut off all commercial flights to Entebbe International Airport. Only cargoes and UN aircraft with humanitarian emergencies were allowed with the objective of preventing Covid-19 spread.
The President then allowed Ugandans to return home, who were stranded abroad.
Although the shutdown was 32 days, the situation in Uganda and other countries worldwide deteriorated as cases of Covid-19 increased. Both commercial flights remain in suspension until now.
Dr Misaki Wayengera, the head of the ministerial scientific advisory committee on Covid-19, told us at the weekend that UCAA must ensure hand-washing for all travellers, wearing of a mask, keeping social distancing, disinfect all seats and rails and test temperature of all airport staff and travellers.
Dr Wayengera also reiterated that air conditioning systems that operate singly where the air is picked from one source to other places must be changed, saying in the event such air is contaminated, it can easily carry the virus to other places.
“The issue of reopening the airport is not purely scientific. We engage sectors and come up with SoPs and then assess them before we can implement them. Therefore, the readiness to reopen the airport is with CAA. We are waiting for UCAA to report to us and then we assess their readiness before reopening,” Dr Wayengera said.
UCAA spokesperson Mr Vianney Luggya said that the authorities had produced the government’s list of SoPs as required and had a copy submitted for approval to Dr Henery Mwebesa, Health Services Director. “We created SoPs that we shared with the Health Ministry. Therefore, in the final stage of engagement with key stakeholders, we will resume our business once SoPs are authorised, “said Mr Luggya.
Covid-19 Guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Airports Council (CIC), among other bodies, also advised and domesticated their production.
CAA’s SoPs include installation of automatic sanitation at strategic points, airport marks to ensure social space, the procurement of temperature guns, three state of- the art scanners to measure temperatures 30 meters away, which will be mounted in the waiting lounge and VIP’s (VIP’s) quarters.
Other tents are installed at the air front to detect and isolate signs and test Covid-19 for the purposes of screening and isolation.
Passengers will arrive four hours earlier due to multiple checks following the resumption of flights.
However, Mr Luggya said a decision to reopen the airport depends on many factors and is only reached after thorough consultations with all stakeholders.
“You cannot see the other country reopening and you also rush to reopen without considering key measures. The decision to reopen the airport can only be taken by the government,” he said.
Mr Godfrey Katongole, the chairperson of Kampala Arcades Traders Association, welcomed the reopening of the airport.
“Most of the businesses in Kampala sell merchandise from China. The fact that all traders who used to travel to China can no longer go anymore means that there is no business,” Mr Katongole said.
“Even if you told someone in China to send you merchandise, you could end up getting a different class of merchandise. Most shops downtown do not have merchandise and are selling old products. If the government plans to reopen, then that is a good thing,” he added.
Entebbe International Airport draft boutiques
•Standard hand washing
•A facemask must be worn
•Disinfecting rails and seats
•Temperature management test
•Use of protective gear by staff
• Travelers to be checked in the country before exit and on arrival.
•Small luggage to be allowed to reduce congestion
•All waiting lounges are disinfected periodically
• No touching and handshaking
Kenya, Rwanda SOPs
Some of the SOPs which Rwanda and Kenya have put for travellers include social distancing, wearing a facemasks, disinfecting seats and rails, screening to ascertain temperature, use of protective gear by staff and regular sanitising for staff and passengers.