Entebbe, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | 382 Ugandans, mostly domestic workers have returned from Saudi Arabia aboard a chartered Saudi Airlines flight. The group departed from King Khalid International Airport on Tuesday afternoon and arrived at Entebbe International Airport around 8pm.
They were received by Foreign Affairs Ministry officials. They were screened before being taken into institutional quarantine. Their return comes a few days after the Saudi government asked Uganda to clear the special flight for its nationals or else it sends them without clearance.
This was mainly because majority of the Ugandans who would board the flight were domestic workers who entered the country illegally and were in deportation centers, or didn’t have funds to survive in the country.
Others had tested positive for COVID-19 and wanted to return home but lacked the means. The initial plan was that Uganda would receive 300 stranded Ugandans every two weeks to decongest the quarantine and isolation centers.
By July 27th, the country had 972 returnees in institutional quarantine out of the 2,154 who have arrived since June 22nd, 2020. The health ministry was under pressure since the three public facilities at Mulago Paramedical School, Fisheries Institute and Lands and Survey were fully occupied by the time the Saudi government asked for clearance for the charted flight.
The three facilities have a total room capacity of 250 beds. Government cleared the chartered flight for the Ugandans from Saudi Arabia since the Health Ministry has arranged beds at Mandela National Stadium, where the group will undergo institutional quarantine.
The Ministry says it has arranged makeshift wards in the three halls at Mandela National stadium that will accommodate least 1,000 people. Ambassador Patrick Mugoya, the Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary recently told Uganda Radio Network that apart from today’s flight that was organized by the Saudi government, the ministry will stick to its schedule for repatriation flights.
The plan is that the returnees must foot the costs of the air fares and quarantine for those who opt for private facilities. The schedule shows that the next repatriation flights will take place from August 2nd, after the last batch of 1,105 arrived between July 18th to July 24th from North and South America, West Africa and Middle East among other areas.
The latest group brings the number of returnees to 2, 536, surpassing the figure of 2,400 that government had earlier registered.