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Dr. Diana Atwine [File Photo]

Uganda’s Health Ministry to re-test migrant workers at Entebbe

News| The Northern Link UG | The Ministry of Health will start re-testing all labor export workers a day before they depart the country.

Dr. Diana Atwine, the Permanent Secretary of the health ministry, says the move stems from the number of migrant workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 at their final destinations.

In a letter dated July 8th, 2021, Atwine wrote to the Permanent Secretary at the  Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development to issue the “Interim measures for migrant workers exiting at Entebbe International Airport.”

The measures will take effect on July 11 at 12am.

Atwine says the measures will  “protect the credibility of the country’s health system at meeting international obligations” and also “to deter further blacklisting of Uganda from international travel arrangements”. Last month the United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom banned flights from Uganda due to the surging number of COVID-19 cases.

The measures were developed after officials from the ministries of health and gender, Uganda Civil Aviation Authority and Entebbe Port Health met last month.

As a result, all migrant workers must present a negative PCR Test certificate issued within 72 hours before their departure flight and thereafter be re-tested at Entebbe Airport. The test will be free.

Atwine says a government laboratory will conduct the free confirmatory test for these travelers 24 hours before their flight.

Ronnie Mukundane, the Spokesperson of the Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies-UERA, opposes the measures. He wants the government to release the number of migrant workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 at their final destinations. “But even without figures, is it only migrant workers who have tested positive after leaving the country? No. Recently the National Rugby team had players who tested positive and other groups of travelers have tested positive at their final destinations.”

He, therefore, thinks all travelers should be re-tested. “So if travelers are being re-tested at the airport, what does it say about the accredited testing centers? Mukundane adds.

He also says travelers will have to wait for long hours to get their test results and they also could easily contract COVID-19 if they are congested at the airport.

Mukundane says the association, with over 200 members,  will engage with the ministry of gender over the measures so that the health ministry rethinks the move.

The ministry of health spokesperson Emmanuel Ainebyoona had not responded to concerns raised by the labor companies by press time.

Hillary Taremwa, the head of the labor externalization unit at the ministry of gender, is urging the labor companies to comply with the measures.  He however says the health ministry has not provided statistics on how many migrant workers have recently tested positive at their final destinations.

He says that between January to May 2021, an average of 300 to 500 Ugandans was leaving daily for work abroad, particularly United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Oman among other countries. however, in the last few weeks due to the ban on flights from Uganda to UAE, the numbers have reduced to between 150-200.

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