BORDER CLOSURE ENDS PASSENGER FLIGHTS TO UGANDA AS HOTELS AND LODGES HAVE EMPTIED
(Posted 22nd March 2020)
Uganda is facing her biggest peacetime challenge now as President Museveni effectively closed the country’s borders to all passenger traffic.
Airlines will as of Monday 23rd of March be banned from landing in Entebbe, apart from cargo flights and relief flights, for which special conditions apply.
The land borders will close for all traffic, including pedestrian, with the exception of trucks bringing in cargo.
Uganda has confirmed her 1st case of #COVID19, today. This is a 36 year old Ugandan male who arrived on 21 March 2020 at 2:00am. During the screening process at the airport, his temperature was 38.7. This prompted health teams to isolate him at the airport for further follow up
The new measures, amid reports that the country now has the first active COVID19 case reported, have already had an impact on public life, with major markets, bars, cinemas, large weddings and funerals, church services, concerts and other events banned.
Uganda Airlines, which over the past 9 months has been growing from strength to strength, too will have to halt operations, a blow to the country’s ambition to have her own national airline flying across Africa.
Uganda’s tourism and hospitality industry is taking a massive hit as Kampala’s leading hotels are all but empty now, as are safari lodges. Internationally branded hotels in Uganda are weighing their options as to either continue operations or halt them, and Ugandan brands too are staring at the same scenario.
Local hotels in upcountry locations are also said to be emptying after President Museveni had strongly recommended that Ugandan’s stay put in their places of residence and stop traveling across the country.
Restaurants are likely the next target of government directives for closure and movement restrictions too might be in the making, to keep any social contacts to a bare minimum. It remains to be seen how many can adapt to outside delivery services and if there is a demand for it or else, having no business, also considering to lay off their staff.
No prior virus outbreaks in Uganda, not Ebola, Marburg or other similar diseases, had this kind of impact on the country’s economy and especially the tourism sector, as such cases were localized and in instant isolation and quarantine. However given the aggressive nature of COVID19 and its spread potential even when an infected person shows no symptoms yet, has this invisible enemy brought the world to its knees.
In neighbouring Tanzania has the government of Zanzibar closed down all tourist hotels after banning all tourist flights into Unguja and Pemba islands, leading to mass layoffs of staff, all of whom now face an uncertain future.
In Kenya are hotels still open, as are safari lodges and coastal resorts, but with occupancies at record lows is it now also just a matter of time before either owners or the government pulls the plugs there too.
Rwanda, as reported here has halted visits to the mountain gorillas by tourists, not that there are any significant numbers of tourists left in the country, and this development reflects what is happening on the Indian Ocean islands too, as Mauritius and Seychelles have gone into lockdown, Madagascar – still free of any cases up to now – has banned international passenger flights and the French regions of Reunion and Mayotte are equally pondering their next moves.
News just in from South Africa speak of one of their largest hotel chains, Tsogo Sun, at the verge of closing 36 of their properties, no doubt triggering similar action of other local and international hotel operators, which faced with no business are left with no other choices.
In all the affected countries is the private sector engaged with government in talks over active support measures like deferred taxes and fees, interest free guaranteed loans and where available unemployment benefits for staff, but given the stretched resources of African governments as it is, will this be an uphill challenge as all other economic sectors too are beating a path to the doors of government.
ATCNews wishes all tourism businesses well during these trying times and hopes that all readers, present and future, remain safe.