Task force sets terms for compulsory Covid testing

Wednesday September 15 2021
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A doctor takes a sample from a street child at Nakivubo Blue Primary School in May 2020. The National Covid-19 Task Force has directed that gaps in Covid-19 testing at the designated centres be urgently addressed. PHOTO/ABUBAKER LUBOWA

By Tonny Abet

The National Covid-19 Task Force has directed that gaps in Covid-19 testing at the designated centres should be urgently addressed to pave way for the implementation of mandatory testing.

Government had planned to start implementing mandatory testing for all travellers arriving in the country on September 3 but it was postponed for two weeks, a day before, by an inter-ministerial team led by Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja.

Touring Entebbe International Airport on Sunday with other government officials on the National Task Force, Ms Nabbanja said there  were key gaps that must be filled.

“We have come up with suggestions that the inefficiencies that we saw in the place of testing should be addressed as quickly as possible,” she said.

“We are also recommending that some time to come, all passengers will be tested from here but that is a long term plan because we still have this place, is almost 75 percent complete…as government we shall look for money and complete this facility so that testing and everything will be done here,” she added.

Dr Charles Ayume, the head of Parliament’s health committee, while touring the testing centres in Entebbe nine days ago, said the turnaround time should be halved to avoid irritating travellers and tourists.  “We welcome this [directive of mandatory testing]. But of course there are a number of issues like any new facility. Try to bring the turnaround time to two hours,” he said.

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Currently, travellers spend about four  hours to get their results. 

The Covid-19 testing facility is at Penial Beach Hotel in Entebbe and six laboratories are testing travellers. 

The laboratories include Test and Fly, Case Hospital, Medipal, Safari Lab, Same Day Lab and City Medical lab.

Travellers are charged $65 (about Shs229,439) to do test but some legislators want the cost reduced to $40 (about Shs141,194).

The Prime Minister was also concerned about enforcement of Covid-19 prevention measures at the testing facilities as reports indicate that some workers and travellers  do not use facemasks.  

Dr Chis Byaromunsi, the Information minister, said they are testing travellers from  10 high-risk countries  which  include Kenya, Ethiopia, and India. 

“Decision has to be made on whether to maintain that or we test all those who come into the country. We were also assessing the suitability of the airport,” he said.

Ms Nabbanja said they have instituted a technical committee to assess the gaps and also benchmark what is happening in other countries to better services in Uganda.

“We have agreed that we give them two days [to present their report],” she said.  

The Ministry of Health spokesperson, Mr Emmanuel Ainebyoona, yesterday said a  final position would  be communicated before the end of  this Friday.

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