Re-opening of Entebbe International airport
Re-opening of Entebbe International airport: Entebbe International airport is the main gateway into Uganda located 47 kilometers South of Kampala capital city. The Entebbe airport hosts more than 70 percent of passenger arrivals into the country and supports quite a number of businesses in the importations and exportations of Uganda products.
Entebbe international airport was closed to passengers since March 2020 except for repatriation, Cargo flights and UN aircraft. The president of the Republic of Uganda Yoweri Kaguta Museveni directed the closure of Entebbe international airport and all other border entry points in and out of Uganda given the rapid outbreak of COVID 19 pandemic. The directive was initiated for a period of about 32 days however given the consistent increase of COVID 19 patients; the closure was indefinitely extended after several extensions of the lockdown. The closure of Entebbe international airport hit the Travel and tourism sector of Uganda so hard that the tourism sector had to close for a great number of months.
The best news for the Uganda tourism is that Entebbe International airport has been scheduled to re-open for commercial passenger on October 1, 2020, ending at least five months of lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (a government agency responsible for licencing and regulating civil aviation matters said that about 12 airlines have been cleared to operate flights in Entebbe airport as of 1st October 2020 while others are yet to be confirmed. These airlines include; Uganda Airlines, Ethiopia Airlines, Rwanda Air, Turkish airlines, Air Tanzania, Qatar Airways, Emirates, Fly Dubai, KLM Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Kenya Airways and Tarco Aviation. However, the re-opening of Entebbe airport will gradually increase depending on what number of flights the airport can handle for a while and the inflow of outflow of passengers.
Guidelines for re-opening of Entebbe international airport
The Uganda Civil aviation has established guidelines that must be followed by passengers when the airport eventually re-opens on the 1st/October/2020. To be able to re-open the Entebbe airport, the Uganda Civil Aviation Authority has borrowed and domesticated several operating standard procedures from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), Airports Council International, the World Health Organisation (WHO), the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency and the African Civil Aviation Commission. The following guidelines will be practices as soon as passenger operations resume.
The most critical guideline provided by the Ministry of Health in the prevention of the spend of the pandemic includes a thorough health check, wearing of face masks at all times, maintaining social distance, washing of hands at any given point, and use of sanitizers will be mandatory for all. The setting up of these strict measures were intended to allow the listed airlines to keep passengers safe, prevent the spread of the pandemic and also resume flying in the skies. Wearing of face masks is highly recommended of all passengers and staff. Other tools established include; a three ultra-modern scans which detect temperatures at a distance of 20 meters, installation of automated sanitisers at strategic points at the airport and deployment of temperature guns that will help in maximising the spread of the pandemic and social distancing. These tools will be installed in the waiting areas/lounges, wash rooms have been changed to non-touch faucets, Very Important Persons (VIP) rooms, at the glass shields to minimise contact between the staff and the passengers.
All passengers are expected to have a valid COVID 19 certificate issued to them 2 days (48 hours) from their country of origin. However, it is mandatory to take another COVID 19 test on arrival at Entebbe international airport. Passengers will still take a COVID 19 test before they are permitted to enter Uganda. Passengers found with any of the COVID 19 symptoms will be blocked from accessing the exist point and instead quarantined for a given period. The airport authorities have established areas for health screening of all incoming passengers and another area for passengers with symptoms of the pandemic.
Before the outbreak of the COVID 19 pandemic around the whole world and ban of travel, passengers going through Entebbe international airport were expected to check-in three hours before their flights to prepare and undergo strict security checks but now as a result of the pandemic as the airports re-open, passengers will be required to arrive four hours before their flight departure to provide enough time for thorough body check-ups and language check.
The outbreak of COVID 19 already found when the airport was undergoing renovation and upgrading, especially at the terminal and runways while the expansion of the Cargo centre is still underway. Plans to put in place automated non-touch doors in the passenger access areas are seriously considered. The pre-boarding lounges which for a long time have been small partitioned zones will be torn down to create more space for passengers.