Govt takes over Covid testing for travellers

Thursday September 16 2021
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A laboratory attendant marks blood samples taken from travellers to test for Covid-19 at Entebbe airport. PHOTO/COURTESY

By Tonny Abet

Cabinet chaired by President Museveni has resolved that the government takes over mandatory Covid-19 testing for all travellers coming into the country. 

The announcement came after the Ministry of Health officials confirmed that six private laboratories/firms had been lined up to handle compulsory Covid-19 testing of travellers as part of a new government policy. 

Private sector players, however, say they are puzzled because they had already installed expensive equipment at Entebbe after undergoing the Ministry of Health selection process.

READ: Forced Covid-19 tests for travellers sparks outrage

Dr Chris Baryomunsi, the Information minister, in a statement yesterday said the position to take over the implementation of mandatory testing was reached during a Cabinet meeting on Monday.

“….all travellers entering the borders including Entebbe International Airport would undergo a mandatory sample removal for testing Covid-19….the PCR tests for all arriving passengers shall be carried out by government and not the private laboratories,” he said.

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Dr Baryomunsi said Cabinet also agreed that “passengers will pay a recovery cost of $30 (Shs105,935)   instead of $65  (Shs229,527).”  He said the current practice where tourists are given favours will be maintained. “…passengers with Tourist Visas will have their samples taken but will be permitted to proceed to their respective hotels as they await the processing of their results,” he added.

The decision was made a day after an inter-ministerial team led by Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja assessed the preparedness at the designated testing facilities at Penial Hotel Beach Entebbe. 

Up to six private companies including Test and Fly, Case Hospital, Medipal, Safari Lab, Same Day Lab, and City Medical Lab had installed their equipment.  

ALSO READ: Covid-19: How government selected six labs for testing travellers

Ms Nabbanja had said they noted serious inefficiencies in Covid-19 testing such as delays and issues of poor implementation of Covid-19 preventive measures. 

Dr Richard Mugahi, the assistant commissioner for health services at the Ministry of Health, yesterday said the decision had nothing to do with the integrity of the private laboratories.

He said a specific venue had been gazetted at Entebbe airport for the government to install the equipment.  

Dr Richard Lukandwa, the medical director for Medipal International Hospital,  said: “Government decision goes against their previous directive that Covid testing will be done by private facilities. It has been very expensive to set up equipment.” 

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