COVID-19: Travellers stranded at Katuna as Uganda, Rwanda close borders

Sunday March 22 2020
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Several travellers were on Sunday morning seen stranded at Katuna border post after they were denied entry into Uganda following the presidential directive on closing all the border points to prevent the spread of coronavirus. PHOTOS BY ROBERT MUHEREZA

Hundreds of passengers crossing through Rwanda-Uganda’s Katuna/Gatuna border post were on Sunday morning blocked from crossing into either country after authorities suspended all movements in attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

President Museveni on Saturday evening ordered the closure of all Ugandan borders for both exits and entries on grounds that it would help prevent the spread of the pandemic which has forced nearly one billion people around the world confined to their homes, as the death toll crossed 13,000.

The raging pandemic has forced lockdowns in several countries across the globe, disrupting lives, travel and businesses as governments scramble to shut borders and unleash hundreds of billions in emergency measures to avoid a widespread virus-fuelled economic meltdown.
“We reached at Katuna border post few minutes to mid night on Saturday night but we were denied entry into Uganda by the security officials yet we were aware that president Museveni’s order of closing the borders was supposed to begin on Sunday at mid-day as aired on radios and television,” one of the stranded passengers, Mr Moses Muwanga said.

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  • Museveni closes borders, bans international flights

    Saturday March 21 2020

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    President Museveni on Saturday evenning ordered the closure of all Ugandan borders for both exits and entries starting midday on Sunday.
    The president who said the new measures are being put in place because of the indiscipline of the travellers who have abused the quarantine in Entebbe, has also closed the Entebbe International Airport to international passenger flights starting Sunday midnight.

    “To prohibit all incoming passengers whether by air, water or road. In order to actualise this, we have decided to prohibit all passenger planes coming from outside Uganda from landing at any of the airports of Uganda. Only the cargo planes will be allowed to fly into and outside Uganda. Also to be allowed are planes on account of emergency or UN planes doing relief work,” Mr Museveni ordered.
    He said the crews of the cargo planes and UN planes will be accommodated in places that will be identified in consultation with authorities in those places.
    “Domestic flights will continue for now but we may change later because those planes are not safer. Since we don’t have cases now, the can continue flying” the President added.

    The President who said the East African Community (UAC) member starts have not yet agreed on joint collective measures to avert the spread of the Covid-19, all the borders are going to be closed with only cargo trucks allowed in and out of Uganda.
    “ No person, Ugandan or otherwise, will be allowed to enter Uganda by water or land except for those drivers and accompanying crews-not exceeding three for cargo transport vehicles such as trailers, lorries and other cargo vehicles” he stated.
    In the same directive, cross border passenger vehicles will stop leaving or entering Uganda starting midday on Sunday.
    “No buses, taxis, no minibuses, no saloon cars, no boda bodas will be allowed in the country. Also pedestrians walking on foot or riding on bicycles will not be allowed to enter Uganda by water, by road or by footpath nor will they be allowed to exit by those means” the President said.

    Mr Museveni, to put these new measures into force, called upon the Local Council one leaders in the border areas to work with security personnel to enforce the new orders.
    Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya and Democratic Republic of Congo are Ugandan neighbours that are already battling the Covid-19 cases.

  • Rwanda imposes shutdown, suspends 'unnecessary movements'

    Sunday March 22 2020


    Rwanda has suspended all "unnecessary movements" outside the home and clamped down on travel across its borders, in one of the toughest measures yet imposed in sub-Saharan Africa to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
    "Unnecessary movements and visits outside the home are not permitted," the government announced in a statement late Saturday, excusing trips for healthcare, food, or banking.

    All borders are closed except for the passage of goods and cargo and returning Rwandan citizens, read the statement, which also announced the closure of all but the most essential markets and restrictions on travel between cities and districts.
    Rwanda as of Saturday had recorded 17 confirmed cases of coronavirus, the highest number in the East Africa region.
    All commercial flights to the country had already been suspended, and all bars closed.

    Anyone arriving in Rwanda will be subject to 14 day quarantine at designated locations.
    International visitors for tourism and trade shows are a major source of revenue for Rwanda and the capital Kigali in particular, which markets itself as an attractive location for global conferences.
    But authorities moved quickly to curb fears of a coronavirus outbreak, banning large outdoor events such as concerts and political gatherings before the country had even confirmed a case of the illness.

Two buses belonging to Jaguar bus company were parked on the Ugandan side while three other buses from different companies were seen parked on the Rwandan side at Gatuna border post.

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The Mayor for Katuna town council, Mr Nelson Nshangabasheija, asked the Ministry of Health to pick all the stranded passengers at Katuna border post and take them to the Entebbe isolation centre for screening.
“All those passengers that were travelling from Rwanda and are currently stranded at Katuna border post should be taken to the isolation centre in Entebbe for proper screening,” Mr Nshangabasheija said.
Some of the stranded passengers at Katuna are Congolese, Rwandans, Ugandans and those from Burundi.

Uganda’s Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng, on Sunday morning confirmed the first case of COVID-19.
She said the confirmed case is a 36-year-old male resident of Kibuli, Kakungulu zone in Kampala, who had travelled to Dubai on March 17, 2020 for a business trip.
He reportedly returned to Uganda on March 21, 2020 at around 2 am aboard Ethiopian airlines.
On the other hand, Rwanda as of Saturday, had recorded 17 confirmed cases of coronavirus, the highest number in the East Africa region.

Rwanda has also suspended all "unnecessary movements" outside the home and clamped down on travel across its borders, in one of the toughest measures yet imposed in sub-Saharan Africa to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

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