How I witnessed travellers miss their Flights due to delayed Covid-19 results at Entebbe Airport.


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Travellers at Entebbe Airport cannot keep missing their flights due to delayed Covid-19 results. Even when news of Government intervention is in plans to stream line the testing exercise at the airport, I wished that it had intervened a night before the flight night. No one deserves to sit hours waiting or even miss a flight because they are endlessly waiting for Covid-19 results.

I recently escorted my elder sister to the airport on her way out to the United Arab Emirates for hopefully a better job prospect. Her ticket was for a Fly Dubai flight and she had earlier completed COVID-19 testing with the PCR test at City Medicals with her results returning Negative.

Just like all first timers, one doesn’t want to miss their first flight out to anywhere so we made plans to be at the airport early enough to avoid any delays or late requirements that might cause a rebooking fee. Bags packed, travel documents and COVID-19 test results in hand, we head to the airport with no stops in mind.

With the better part of my days spent between Bulenga on Mityana road and the city centre of Kampala, a drive to Entebbe on the Express way was a welcome shot of fresh air. Not known to me then, was an impending second COVID-19 test 6 hours prior to boarding the plane for United Arab Emirates bound passengers. Here I thought my sister was being early for the first time because this lady is a stickler for make-up, her daily routine is started with an hour of preparations but let me not digress. Leaving the Express way, I was surprised by the new look of Nkumba area and then onto Entebbe town.

On airport road, my sister pleaded with the taxi driver to make a stop at Peniel Beach Hotel and even before asking for directions we saw a lengthy stretch of vehicles all heading to the hotel. At the entrance we were ushered in with questions of who were the travellers and their destination instead of a simple reminder to sanitize and check temperature.

She was led to the Test and Fly laboratories area for the PCR test even after she presented her Negative results from the second test as this is mandatory for travellers heading to the United Arab Emirates.

For your clarification, travellers heading to the United Arab Emirates have to take two COVID-19 PCR tests in the interval of 48 hours and 6 hours prior to departure from Uganda and on arrival another test is done. The tests taken in Uganda are at the cost of the traveller and each will set you back 65 US Dollars and if you want to pay in shillings this particular laboratory charged my sister 250,000 shillings.

So a combined bill for COVID-19 testing in Uganda is 130 US Dollars or 500,000 shillings, fortunately the test in the UAE is free of charge. For those who have not done a PCR test before, prepare to be swabbed in the nose with a mild irritation.

After the sample was taken we were told to wait for the results though from the turnaround time of the first PCR test one hour was enough to have our results out. Not wanting to waste time sitting for an hour, I embark on my walk around the area just to listen in, on the stories of the expectations of the travellers. It’s my experience that frequent travellers will usually concentrate on their itinerary more that the expectations while the first timers will be on phone calling every Tom Dick and Harry to let them know how it’s going to be a while before they hangout together again as they will be out of the country. But in the same crowd you will find people that tested more than two hours before and are still waiting for results so it is then that you ask the question. How long will the results take to be availed? What will the results be?

Walking back to my sister I tried to remember if she had isolated from the time of the first test to this moment. With the resources we had pulled together just to get to this point it was a chilling prospect to have results returning as Positive. Repercussions would trickle to down to the last drop of tears, then the delays of quarantine and rebooking of flights and hotels, costs would lead my family into financial chaos. My hopes were raised when I overheard the lady next us saying she had been aiding passengers for the past two days and there were not Positive cases of COVID-19.

Playing devils advocated I wondered who would be the beneficiary if a result was returned Positive? The Laboratory would have to test the client again, the flight would need a rebooking fee, the hotel would also enjoy a percentage of your payment so ultimately the only positive would be the passenger’s confirmation of their status on COVID-19.

Four hours in, we advised to go and check-in as the results were being finalised and that they would find us at the boarding lounge. For ease I volunteered to stay as they went to check-in. But we later guided that the results will definitely be needed before boarding so it is ok to go and check-in the results will be delivered at the airport. We proceeded but the loud and jolly farewells had turned into awkward silence as we pondered the delay in the results that was meant to be an hour of waiting. In the parking area at the airport, was a dash for the trolleys so I asked her to walk ahead so I could bring the bags to follow.

Going up to the first floor airport security asked us not to proceed from the parking area as only the traveller would go past that point in to the lounge. After a long and unfruitful bargain with the taxi driver on the charge in the taxi fare because of the delays, I was forced to board back home worried about her unfinished results.

She did eventually fly out on the 11th of September but to her dismay some passengers missed the flight because of delayed results.

In hindsight I want to encourage all Ugandans to know your COVID-19 status even though it’s not for travel and request the private laboratories to give a cost friendly and timely COVID-19 test.

For God and My Country.


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