India has so far recorded more than 18 million cases of COVID-19 with over 208,000 deaths.
On Saturday, India reported over 400,000 new Covid cases in 24 hours for the first time, the first country to do so in the pandemic, official data showed.
The country is also in a crisis with an acute shortage of essential supplies such as oxygen and ventilators for overflowing critical cases to health facilities.
Health Minister Dr Jane Ruth Aceng told journalists on Friday that Uganda has so far recorded one case of the Indian strain of the coronavirus that is feared to be lethal. She said starting Saturday, only those Ugandans who have been in India for treatment are the only nationals that will be allowed back in the country.
“Further to the existing Covid-19 control measures, all travelers and passengers originating from India shall not be allowed into Uganda starting at midnight of May 1, 2021,” she said.
For travelers arriving from India before midnight on Saturday, Dr Aceng said they are expected to have a negative PCR COVID-19 test certificate conducted 120 hours from the time of sample collection and will undergo another mandatory PCR test on arrival. The ban also affects travelers that have traveled through India in the last 14 days.
Once found positive, the minister said they will be isolated at their own cost in a designated hotel whereas those that will test negative will undergo self -quarantine at their residences.
“The only exempted flights are cargo flights, technical stops where travelers don’t leave the flight and operations related to humanitarian work, medical evacuation or approved diplomatic flights,” Dr Aceng said.
This ban comes at a time when there are five circulating strains of coronavirus in Uganda including the Ugandan strain which has already been seen in 34 other countries.
The other strains include the South African, Nigerian and the one from the United Kingdom.
Considering these circulating strains, the Ministry of Health has also recommended that travelers coming from UK, United Arab Emirates, the US, Turkey, South Africa, South Sudan, and Tanzania which countries they named “category two” should consider postponing non-essential travel to Uganda. Dr Aceng, however, noted that travelers who have been fully vaccinated don’t need to test at arrival in the country.
While India has vaccinated 11 per cent of its entire population, Uganda has only vaccinated 0.7 per cent of the population with the first jab in an exercise that is only picking up now with fears of resurging infection.
Dr Yonas Tegegn Woldermariam, the World Health Organization Country Representative said even with such small vaccination figures, Uganda is among the countries performing well as far as uptake in Africa is concerned.
He urged countries not to be worried about the circulating news of vaccine expiries noting that countries that have destroyed or returned their jabs have only wasted them.