Uganda will begin mandatory Covid testing for all people arriving in the country via land border points to check the rise in infections, it announced on Friday.
Dr Henry G Mwebesa, the country’s Director-General for Health Services, said they are targetting the Malaba and Busia borders with Kenya, Elegu with South Sudan, as well as Mutukula and Mpondwe. The decision, he said in a statement, follows detection of more variants of Omicron imported from neighbouring countries in travellers who arrived via Entebbe International Airport.
“The Ministry (of Health) is also intensifying mandatory testing, and follow up of cases for all incoming travellers at the five major points of entry,” Dr Mwebesa said of the key border points with Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda.
“The testing will be implemented by the private sector already existing at the points of entry as the Ministry of Health builds adequate capacity to take over, just as we did at Entebbe International Airport.”
The change in policy, he argued, was informed by the rise in the number of people testing positive from neighbouring countries. Previously, arrivals via land border were only required to show a valid negative PCR certificate obtained from an accredited lab in their countries of origin.
Uganda, which has been under lockdown since July, reported 255 new cases of Covid-19, among them 25 cases of Omicron variant.
This raised the positivity rate to 3.7 percent and the total number of cases detected since the pandemic began to 128,764, out of which 97,971 have recovered, according to data from the Ugandan Ministry of Health.
Dr Mwebasa said the positive cases had been found among travellers from Kenya, South Africa, Sudan, DR Congo, Tanzania and Rwanda.
The Omicron cases have been detected among people arriving at Entebbe from Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria.
“This means that there may be increased transmission in other countries,” he said.
The new Omicron variant of SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, was first sequenced in South Africa among arrivals last month. It has since been detected in over 60 other countries, including in communities that had had no recent travel history.
Omicron is said to have a shorter incubation period -- the time it takes to manifest in the body -- and has been seen to infect both infants and adults alike even though it has had a lower mortality rate that previous variants like the Delta.