As I write this, I am seated at Spennah Beach in Entebbe with my travelling colleague waiting for our Covid 19 PCR test results following our return flight from Ethiopia 2 hours ago. I hope they come out negative because if they do not; we are not sure of our fate since nothing was explained to us as we paid and our noses got annoyingly prodded for the uptenth time in 6 days!
Stories of how well connected individuals in this country made a killing from the covid 19 pandemic have been doing rounds. From borrowed millions of dollars, to the shenanigans in parliament and the mess that was the presidential donations, free masks and relief food. We have been treated to scandal after scandal. While we are waiting to hear more scandals in respect of this new spike in covid 19 cases and deaths (believe me they will come), I recently came face to face with how the Mafia fleece the general public under the guise of providing critical service.
On wednesday 16th June 2021, i had to take a covid 19 PCR test being a mandatory requirement for my flight to Ethiopia on Friday 18th June 2021. I paid 245,000/- and fortunately obtained a negative Covid 19 PCR result with which i proceeded with my Journey. That Covid 19 negative PCR result was enough to gain me admittance into Ethiopia without any further testing. But for my return flight, I had to undergo a mandatory Covid 19 PCR test in Ethiopia at a cost equivalent to 180,000/- on the eve of my departure. With this test turning negative I proceeded for my return flight to Entebbe. Upon arrival, because Ethiopia is among category 2 categories, I and other passengers were subjected to another mandatory covid 19 PCR test less than 24 hours after our PCR Negative test result in Ethiopia at a cost of 300,000/- each for the express service.
So while Ethiopia believes in the credibility of the Ugandan Covid 19 PCR test results (to the extent of admitting its citizens without re testing them), Uganda does not believe in the Ethiopian one or any other country for that matter since all passengers from category 1 and 2 countries must be subjected to a mandatory covid 19 PCR test (provided by the private sector) at the passenger´s cost!
Uganda also charges about 65,000/- more than the Ethiopian Covid PCR test. And something more intriguing; for the PCR test in Ethiopia they did a total of 4 swabs i.e. one in each nose and 2 in the mouth but charged us less than what Uganda charges using only one swab in a single nose!
As I sat for 2 hours waiting for my results at the heavily guarded Spennah beach where the safari testing Lab is located, I could not help ponder how this partnership with the private sector was arrived at by MoH. I wondered whether having gotten my nose penetrated 4 times in a space of 6 days was not going to have any effects on my respiratory system? I wondered why covid 19 PCR tests in Uganda range between 70,000 and 245,000/- and the most expensive one is the only one available to passengers at Entebbe Airport. I wondered who really looks out for Ugandans in all this.
But as i continued to ponder the inconvenience of passengers waiting for 2-4 hours for covid 19 PCR test results after whatever length of travel they have just endured i was reminded that on our outbound flight to Ethiopia on Friday 18th June 2021 the super full Boeing 787 whose sitting capacity is 336 passengers was 3 quarters full of mainly young girls for a connecting flight in Addis Ababa to the Middle East to escape the hell that is unemployment in Uganda. And on the return flight today 23rd June 2021, the same Boeing 787 which was half full was carrying mainly returning girls from the middle East) who cried, clapped and made celebratory noise upon landing at Entebbe). I had made effort to talk to one such returning girl on the flight and the stories she had to share are harrowing to say the least.
As we were whisked away from the airport under tight security for the mandatory covid 19 PCR test, the departure lines were long with another batch of hijab donning girls checking in for the Ethiopian and possibly other flights to the middle east. Clearly this was to be another full flight to Addiss Ababa carrying precious ¨slaves¨ to the middle east.
Thoughts of these girls temporarily took my mind off my current predicament and gave me a very uneasy feeling making it seem immoral for me to complain about my situation no matter how unfair and exploitative the whole setup is.
As demonstrated by the Ethiopian Authorities, the mandatory Covid 19 PCR test for arriving passengers at Entebbe Airport who had to undergo a similar test hours before their respective departure flights is nothing but a well orchestrated ploy to extort money from the travelling public. I challenge the MoH to share with the public a protocol that makes a covid 19 PCR test of any value for any individual in less than 168 hours after the previous test! Without that, MoH owes the travelling public an apology and a refund.
But who am i kidding, that apology and refund is as much a dream as is the Covid 19 relief to the vulnerable.
Ohh before I forget, I and my travelling colleague tested covid 19 negative as expected (science tells us our covid 19 status could not have changed in less than 24hrs since the previous test anyway).
Even the inconvenience of having to pay an airport taxi to drive us back to the airport to retrieve our car which the authorities never allowed us to retrieve before the mandatory test could not dampen our spirits. We were just another batch of Ugandans who had just had yet another experience of exploitation sanctioned by the authorities.