RESCUED: Ugandans who were stranded abroad due to Covid-19 lockdown disembarking from Uganda Airlines at International Airport Entebbe yesterday night
THE MINISTRY of Foreign Affairs has assured stranded Ugandans abroad due to Covid 19 pandemic who wants to return back home that it is the Uganda Government’s task, so let them be patient.
During a press update at International Airport Entebbe about the reparation of stranded Ugandans abroad, Ambassador Alfred Nnam the spokesperson Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Uganda Government is committed to bring back all Nationals who want to return.
This came after a total of 221 persons were repatriated yesterday aboard Uganda Airlines and Ethiopian Airlines.
A total of 150 persons aboard Ethiopian Airlines were yesterday (Thursday), brought back home. These were from Cairo (Egypt), Rome (Italy), London (UK), Copenhagen (Denmark), Ireland and Iceland. They were a total of 150 persons.
“On this flight“, Revealed Ambassador Nnam, “Are two prominent people. The Paramount Chief of Acholi Rwot David Onen Lawirwodi Acana II and Prof. Francis Omaswa, a reknown Cardiologist both on a flight from London (UK).”
Rwot II, the cultural head of Acholi and all persengers on the plane were sent into quarantine for 14 days to ascertain whether they are Covid-19 negative before giving them a green light to live normally in their communities.
Flanked by Mr. Cornwell Muleya, the acting Chief Executive Officer Uganda National Airlines Company and Mr. Moses Kasujja Moses Kalule an official from Foreign Affairs ministry, Ambassador Nnam told media that the operation which started on 22nd June 2020 to bring back Ugandans who were stranded abroad because of the covid- 19 pandemic has continued.
Addressing media on June 23rd 2020, State Minister for Foreign Affairs also in charge of Internal Relations Okello Oryem said, “The Ministry registered stranded persons and by the end of March 2020, up to 2,392 persons stranded in 66 countries around the world had been registered.
On 11th March 2020, the World Health Organization declared the novel corona virus (COVID-19) a global pandemic and also expressed concern that many countries were not doing much to halt the spread.
“As a measure to forestall a possible outbreak of COVID-19 in Uganda, His Excellency the President, on Saturday 21st March 2020, announced the immediate closure of Uganda’s international borders and of the international airport in Entebbe, effective midnight on Sunday 22nd March 2020.” Read Minister Okello Oryem Statement.
He said, while these interventions were timely and done in the best interest of the country, they also created a parallel problem whereby several Ugandans who had traveled abroad on short visits for business, medical treatment, tourism and other valid reasons got stranded either in the countries which they were visiting or in transit countries as they traveled back home.
In December 2019, the World Health Organization China country office confirmed the discovery of a new respiratory pathogen that they named ‘the Novel Coronavirus or N-COV in Wuhan City, Chinese province of HUBEI.
By early February 2020, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs begun receiving distress calls from parents of Ugandan students in Wuhan, China who were concerned about the threat of the spreading new disease and the difficulties that their children faced under the lockdown. They demanded evacuation of their children.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, acting through the Embassy in Beijing quickly reached out to the students to provide psychosocial support.
Additionally, the ministry initiated consultations within the national taskforce on COVID-19, which agreed to provide financial assistance to the students and not to evacuate them since the latter would expose them to infection. The financial package was delivered through the Embassy and the students have since resumed studies. None of them fell sick.
On other distressed Ugandans abroad, the Ministry said, “It is important to clarify that there are other Ugandans who have recently fallen into distress abroad as an after effect of the pandemic but are not necessarily stranded.”
“You will recall the various calls for evacuation of Ugandans from Guangdong province where the city of Guangzhou is located after reports of Africans being harassed by the Chinese.” Said Minister Oryem adding that, “My Ministry working closely with other African Governments immediately engaged the Chinese authorities on this matter which had actually arisen from a miscommunication among the local authorities about how to handle foreign nationals as they control the spread of the corona virus.”
He revealed that, “This matter was quickly resolved through our joint effort and the feedback that we are getting from many of these Ugandans in Guangzhou is that they are not part of the registered 2,392 who consider themselves stranded and asking to be returned home.”
“Many have since gone back to their work and we are grateful to the Chinese government and our African colleagues for managing this problem.” Said Okello.
On facilitating the return of the stranded Ugandans, the minister said, having registered the stranded persons and also taken note of the fact that the country has now built some considerable capacity to control the spread of the virus, the Ministry recommended to Cabinet to allow the stranded nationals to begin returning home in a phased manner which was subsequently approved.
This meant that all the concerned MDAs would have to be ready to receive these returnees. The airport would have to be prepared to comply with WHO and MOH social distancing standards. Testing would have to be done on arrival. Quarantine facilities would have to be prepared and all the frontline workers would have to be well equipped with PPEs.
The Ministry recently issued standard guidelines to all Missions on the conduct of the exercise.
The flights are specially arranged by our Embassies abroad for the repatriation exercise and therefore Entebbe airport is not yet open to commercial passenger flights.
“We are also taking advantage of flights coming into the country to evacuate nationals of other countries. Some of the returnees are also arranging for their own flights which governments is clearing.” Said Hon. Oryem.
AMBASSADOR NNAM MEDIA UPDATE
In a Press briefing yesterday night, Foreign Affairs ministry Spokesman Ambassador Nnam commended departments that have been coordinating with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to enable Ugandans return home.
These include; Ministry of Health, Ministry of Works and Transport, Ministry of Internal Affairs (Immigration) and the Civil Avaiation Authority (CAA) and also the operators of Airlines which led by Uganda Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines and other International Airlines have participated in bringing back Ugandans.
“There has been a very strong coordination of these Ministries. It is true, this is a delicate nature of the operation but so far, everything is moving on very well.” Said Ambassador Nnam in a press briefing attended by Ms. Shilah Ajok the Principle Public Affairs officer of the CAA, Martha Okumu Ringa, Mr. Richard Opio.
He told media that, so far, we have received or we have operated Seven Airlines. We started with Turkish Airlines on the 22nd June 2020 followed by Tarco Airlines, a flight which came in from Khartoum on the 23rd.
“On the same day, we got a fright from Amsterdam that brought our Nationals from the Netherlands and Belgium. On the 28th we got a flight from Afghanistan bringing a total of 91 persons and on the 30th, we got a flight from Mumbai (India) which brought about 26 Ugandans.” Said Foreign Affairs ministry Spokesman.
Later in evenning, Uganda Airlines flew back home 71 persons from Southern Africa.
They were picked from from Eswatin, Lesotho, Botswana, 14 from Zambia and 57 from South Africa.
“By the end of the week, we expect to have received 9 Airlines. The two additional, will be coming in today and on Saturday,” said Ambassador Nnam.
Today, ministry of Foreign Affairs will receive a flight of Fly Dubai, from the United Arab Emirates. It is going to ferry in 291 persons. Tomorrow on the June 4th 2021, another flight from New Delhi India will bring home 150 Ugandans.
“So by the end of this week we shall have received nine flights and 853 Ugandans.
The other subsequent flights, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will communicate to the public once they have been cleared.” Said Foreign Affairs Ministry.
WE WILL FLY HOME MORE UGANDANS-UGANDA AIRLINES BOSS
Speaking during the media update yesterday night at Entebbe International Airport, Mr. Cornwell Muleya said, “Uganda Airlines was set up for such a time as this when there is need to deal with real issues regarding travel and connectivity.”
“The National carrier is supposed to come in and be counted in such a situation. Ugandans are reaping the benefits of their investment at this particular time.” Uganda Airlines boss told media adding that, “Today it’s a joyous day for all of us and we believe that the service we are giving to our people is a welcome one and fitting in the role that we are play in the economy and the social life of Ugandans.”
Mr. Deo Nyanzi, Manager Sales & Marketing Uganda Airlines, in an interview told News Editor Media that, “Uganda Airlines has taken part in the repatriation announced by Uganda Government. We will continue to rescue our Nationals and very soon, we will announce which other countries we will go to, in order to fly back stranded Ugandans.”
Asked whether they are flying back Ugandans for free, Mr. Nyanzi said that is impossible. He said they pay since its a chartered flight but at a subsidised fee.
It should be remembered that Commercial flights are not working.
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