Coronavirus: Uganda hunts 500 Dubai returnees

Thursday March 26 2020

Halted. An Emirates Airbus grounded at Dubai International Airport in Dubai. Government has suspended all passenger operations. AFP PHOTO

Government is tracing unspecified number of missing people who arrived from Dubai in the last two weeks as Uganda’s Covid-19 cases rose from one to 14 since Saturday when the first case was announced.

Nine of the total cases are Ugandans who got infected from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
However, Dr Henry Mwebesa, the Director General of Health Services at the Ministry of Health, yesterday said 574 individuals travelled from Dubai in the last two weeks and are in various places in the country, but following government appeal, 60 of them have been tracked and screened.

“The ministry is in possession of all the passenger details from the respective airlines. We have so far screened 60 travellers at Mulago specialised hospital. We further direct all persons who travelled from Dubai in the past two weeks to come to Ward 2A at MulagoSpecialised Hospital for assessment,” DrMwebesa said in a televised address to the public yesterday.

Information from sources at the Ministry of Health indicates that most of the 574 passengers are still in their respective communities and the ministry is trying to collect samples from them.

Statistics from Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) indicate that there were 5,134 direct flights from Dubai to Entebbe from March 1 to March 22.
Within three days alone, between Friday and Monday, the CAA reported up to 543 direct arrivals from Dubai to Entebbe airport.

Mr Vianney Luggya, the CAA public affairs manager, said there were, however, more passengers who arrived from Dubai using connecting flights from other countries.
He added that most passengers who arrived from Dubai this month, especially non-Ugandan citizens returned home before the closure of Entebbe airport on Sunday.
Dr Diana Atwine, the permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health, said many of those who travelled from Dubai are coming for testing.


“They are coming, we are testing. Although we are concentrating on Dubai, it is not only Dubai people that are sick, even other countries. You need to interest yourself on whoever came in not only through the airport but also through other borders; some were driving,” Dr Atwine said.

Dr Joyce Moriku Kaducu, the Minister of State for Primary Healthcare told Daily Monitor yesterday that the ministry had gathered all the nine confirmed Covid-19 cases previously, in Entebbe Grade B Hospital. Yesterday the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases had risen to 14.
However, Dr Mwebesa said all the patients were in stable condition and responding to treatment.

“By yesterday all of them had been brought to isolation centre at Entebbe, including the two from Kayunga,” Ms Kaducu said.

She said most of the people who returned from Dubai were coming out voluntarily to report for testing.
Yesterday, the Ministry of Health announced five new cases of coronavirus in Uganda, bringing the total to 14.

Among the five new cases is a 63-year-old Ugandan, a resident of Najjanankumbi in Kampala, who travelled from Germany recently.

The second patient is a 57-year-old resident of Adjumani District who has never travelled out of Uganda but trades in salt at the Uganda-South Sudan border of Elegu.
He had not come into contact with someone who travelled abroad. He is admitted to Adjumani hospital.
The third victim is an eight-month-old baby from Iganga District whose father travelled from Kisumu in Kenya recently.

The other two cases are Chinese nationals who had escaped from the quarantine in Kampala but were later arrested in Zombo District in West Nile attempting to cross to DR Congo.

Mr Lennon Mugisha, who travelled to Dubai on March 18, said he reported to the New MulagoSpecialised Hospital where they had asked the travellers to go but he was surprised that upon reaching there, he was put under quarantine without taking samples from him as the ministry had told him.

“There was no order at all. People were in corridors, waiting. There was some lady coughing. I asked the person in charge what I should do and he just filled in my travel details and told me to wait outside,” he said.

Mr Mugisha, who is now quarantined at Douglas Villa Hostel in Makerere-Kikoni Zone, said he fears for his life because where he is quarantined is not safe.
He said since they were taken there, they have been sharing facilities, adding that there are no preventative measures in place.

Dr Atwine advised that those coming for tests should do so after developing symptoms.
“It better they come when they have symptoms. It is misleading to test everyone randomly when they don’t have any symptom,” DrAtwine said.

Currently, 2,661 travellers, including Ugandans identified as potential risk have been either under self-quarantine or institutional quarantine.

By Nobert Atukunda, Tonny Abbet, & Kelvin Atuhaire