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Returnees paying UGX 3.4 million each for Uganda Airlines repatriation flight

Uganda Airlines chartered repatriation flight is set to bring back Ugandans stranded in South Africa next week.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Each stranded Ugandan in South Africa is paying $913 US Dollars, (about shillings 3.4 million) to travel to Uganda on a Uganda Airlines chartered repatriation flight cleared to arrive next week.

Deo Nyanzi, the marketing manager of the national airline says they will operate a charter flight for Ugandans in South Africa on July 2nd.

The flight was initially meant to take place June 25th, but was postponed because the authorities in Uganda and South Africa had not yet cleared the airline to fly. Payments are being made directly to the airline.

Hannington Kasirye, a Ugandan and a community leader in Pretoria told Uganda Radio Network – URN that those that want to travel must pay $913 US Dollars up from the normal average rate of $ 471 US Dollars for a one-way ticket from Johannesburg to Entebbe.

He says it is the lowest cost one can charter a flight under the circumstances noting that certain airlines had made quotations in the range of $1,200 to 1,800 US Dollars about shillings 4.4 million to 6.7 million per passenger.

“Chartering a flight is very expensive,” says Kasirye. So as leaders and concerned Ugandans we contacted Uganda Airlines and we are happy that already some 40 people have already paid for the flight.”

Kasirye, who says he is not among the Ugandans who intend to return to Uganda says over 100 Ugandans want to return home. He is among the people mobilizing and coordinating the repatriation process for the returnees in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana and Zambia who intend to board Uganda Airlines next week.

Through a WhatsApp group, Kasirye says over 100 Ugandans have expressed interest in returning home. However, some are still looking for money to cover travel costs, undertake a coronavirus (COVID-19) test among other requirements.

Kasirye says, “You must have at least one symptom of COVID-19 to get a free test at a government facility in South Africa. Otherwise, at the private facilities, you have to pay above 850 South African Rand (about shillings 180,000) for the test and consultation fees.”

Last week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued 15 standard operating procedures for returnees which include that one must register with the nearest embassy, meet costs for air tickets, must have tested negative for COVID-19 at least ten days to the flight and be willing to undergo institutional quarantine.

Patrick Mugoya, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs says the stringent guidelines will ensure Ugandans will return safely.

He however says the government can relax the requirement of testing negative days before a flight because the World Health Organization recommends exit screening shortly before flight and entry screening on arrival among others for air travelers.

About 2,400 Ugandans are stuck in 66 countries including South Africa after losing jobs, stranded during transit or students and are having difficulty to make ends meet amidst restrictions to combat the spread of COVID-19.

Mugoya says 70 Ugandans have registered to return from South Africa. Already some Ugandans have returned form Sudan Brussels and Netherlands. Others are expected to return United Arab Emirates, the United States of America, Afghanistan and India.

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