As many as 276 Ugandans, Uganda residents and dependent pass
holders flew out of the US Friday destined for Uganda, as the Government
resumes the repatriation of Ugandans and legal residents stranded abroad due to
the coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
The group includes 26 members of the Watoto Church Choir.
Every single one of them wearing a face mask, they all departed the US through Dulles International Airport in Washington DC and are expected to land at Entebbe later today.
Another group, from Qatar, is also scheduled to arrive today.
Other such groups are expected back home in the coming days and weeks – some
through the land borders.
The repatriation exercise, which began on May 18, was as a result of Government’s decision to allow a safe and phased return of all stranded Ugandans and legal residents.
But the exercise was put on hold for two weeks, starting July 4, to “allow the Ministry of Health to efficiently manage the numbers in the quarantine”, according to a statement by the foreign affairs ministry.
“Other breaks for the same pupose have been taken into account in the planning,” the statement said.
Uganda shut its international borders in one of several measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which has affected every part of the globe.
In the US capital, the first group to be repatriated upon the resumption of the exercise was seen off by Mull Sebujja Katende, the Ugandan ambassador to the US, South America and the Caribbean.
Santa Mary Laker-Kinyera, the deputy chief of mission and Adonia Ayebare, the permanent representative of Uganda to the UN, were also there to see the group depart.
Meanwhile, a second group of 88 passengers will depart from
Canada, South America and the Caribbean later in Saturday and arrive in Uganda
on Sunday. They will transit in Addis Ababa.
The travellers from the US and Caribbean included Ugandans and legal residents and their dependents, affected by the March 23 closure of Entebbe Airport due to COVID-19 concerns, the Ugandan embassy in Washington DC said in a statement.
“The majority of passengers are holders of US visitors visas, F1 and J1 student and research fellow visas and Ugandan resident permit holders, who were unable to travel back to Uganda when the airport was closed. The Uganda Embassies in North America also registered a number of stranded Ugandans who had traveled for medical reasons.
Given the closure of numerous borders in both North and South America due to COVID-19 concerns and visa limitations of several of the affected persons, it was necessary to create multiple departure locations to ensure that everyone who could do so was afforded an opportunity to return,” added the statement.
On his part, Ambassador Katende explained that the
registration and repatriation process was “complex, due to the size of the
area of accreditation”.
But that it was made possible by the “seamless coordination and teamwork of the staff at the three Embassies of Uganda in Washington, DC, New York and Ottawa”.
The ambassador paid tribute to his colleagues Ayebare, health minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, the management of Ethiopian Airlines and Mukesh Sahu of Satguru Travel Solutions “for their tireless efforts to reach out and provide guidance to the stranded Ugandans”.
The envoy also thanked the foreign affairs and health ministries for putting in place clear guidelines and standard operating procedures “to ensure that travellers do not just return to Uganda but also do so safely”.