KAMPALA, UGANDA - Uganda's Health Minister Ruth Aceng has announced new measures aimed at preventing the coronavirus from entering the country. She says authorities may soon start using disinfectant spray on all visitors who come through the country's airports.
Aceng says even though Uganda has no confirmed cases of the virus, a total of 1,600 international travelers, including Ugandans, have been identified as high risk and are being monitored.
Aceng says officials are considering using a chemical approved by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to disinfect travelers at the country's airports.
"The Ministry of Health, working with the Civil Aviation Authority, is considering spraying all travelers who arrive into the country as they disembark from the aircraft with a disinfectant spray,” she said.
Ugandan officials have yet to say which spray will be used. International airlines are currently using Viraclean, a hospital-grade disinfectant that kills a range of bacteria, and MD-125, used to kill hundreds of bacteria and viruses.
Allan Muruta, commissioner of Uganda's Public Health Emergency Department, say he supports the measure.
"And these chemicals are used world over, in other international airports. You see what’s happening in China, or Italy, or other countries and that’s what we shall be using. So you spray the whole person all over and then you’re able to really reduce and kill the virus. We want to take the most stringent measures in terms of prevention, because that’s the most available option that we can have for our country,” Muruta said.
Last week, Uganda asked people from seven countries affected by coronavirus to postpone visits to Uganda. Now Aceng says the list has increased to 16 countries, including the United States, and people residing in these countries should consider postponing non-essential travel to Uganda.
Uganda joins the Democratic Republic of Congo on the list of countries enforcing a quarantine for certain travelers.
WHO Country Representative Yonas Woldemariam says there’s a need for Uganda to strengthen its checks at the border points.
"The case is in Kinshasa, it’s not in Beni or close to our borders. Although we should be strict enough in our borders to screen all possible cases.”
Eritrea has also announced that similar measures are to be implemented. According to the WHO, 118 countries are currently affected by the virus.
The best measure for preventing COVID-19, doctors say, is for everyone in affected countries to stay put, limit physical contact, and wait for the virus to stop spreading.