Strict measures put in place
In the meantime, various measures have been put in place, including SOPs that have been harmonised with all key stakeholders including the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), World Health Organisation and the Civil Aviation Safety and Security Oversight Agency, and more.
The terminal building has already been marked for observance of social distancing, lounge seats have also been marked to create some space between seats, and automated sanitizers installed in various strategic points within the terminal building, according to Luggya.
Glass shields have been erected at immigration counters and check-in counters to avoid direct interface between the airport staff and passengers.
Partitions in the boarding lounges are currently being removed to create more open space.
Health screening for temperature is enforced at all points of entry to the airport and terminal building using hand held temperature guns and ultra-modern thermo scanners that can detect temperature of anyone within 30 meters of its radius.
Some tents were erected by World Food Programme with support from DFID at the Airside to be used for health screening and isolation of any passengers that may be found with coronavirus symptoms.
On resumption of flights, Luggya said, departing passengers will be urged to report to the airport four hours prior to their flight departure time to cater for additional time that will be spent going through the added health screening procedures on top of all the other existing security regulations.
All arriving passengers shall possess authentic and valid COVID-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test certificate issued within 72 hours before boarding aircraft in-bound to Uganda. Wearing of masks is also mandatory within the airport’s terminal building.
In addition, frequently touched surfaces are regularly disinfected, but passengers will also be reminded to avoid unnecessary touching of surfaces, and to sanitise after touching documents or surfaces.
Aircraft will also be disinfected on landing after passengers have disembarked before others board.
“All air operators will have to oblige,” he said. “In aviation, once a standard is adopted, it cuts across because this is international business,” he added.
Alexandre de Juniac, the IATA chief executive officer said on Sept.22 that there should be a systematic testing of all international travelers before departure.
He said this should enable governments to safely open borders without quarantine and that it will provide passengers with the certainty that they can travel without having to worry about a last-minute change in government rules that could spoil their plans.
He said as the sector gains momentum, there is quite a lot of work to do.
“If you look at the uptake in travel since the cautious re-opening of borders beginning in June, the results have been dismally disappointing. International travel was at just 8% of its year-ago levels in July. There were little signs of improvement in August,” Juniac explained.
He added that quarantine measures are killing the industry’s recovery and should not be promoted. Instead, he said systematic 100% testing of all travelers before departure should be promoted.
He said this approach will boost passenger confidence knowing that everybody on the aircraft has been tested.
“…and, by doing it in the travel process which is tightly managed, we are avoiding issues of quality control or fraudulent results,” he said.
In fact, IATA reports indicates that there have been millions of flights since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak and there are very few reported incidents where onboard transmission is suspected.
“We believe that the data is telling us that the risk of onboard transmission of the virus is low when compared with other public indoor environments, such as trains, buses, restaurants and workplaces,” reads one of the reports.
Health experts say aircraft benefit from very high air exchange rates and HEPA filters which filter more than 99.99% of all particles including viruses.
Juniac said, while the risk of transmission on an aircraft is low, passengers can take additional precautions to further lower the risk.
He said passengers are also encouraged to practice good hand hygiene – washing hands regularly with soap or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and avoiding touching the eyes, nose or mouth, especially after contact with commonly touched surfaces.
IATA represents some 290 airlines comprising 82% of global air traffic.