36 HOURS IN HELL: ONE UGANDAN’S TALE OF SHOCKING CONDITIONS AT ENTEBBE CENTRAL INN CORONAVIRUS ISOLATION CENTRE
By Mulengera Editorial
Ugandans returning from countries with cases of the Covid-19 disease have been sharing disturbing stories of the harsh conditions at Entebbe Central Inn, the place government has picked as a quarantine centre.
Although the country is yet to confirm any Coronavirus case, Museveni announced a raft of tough preventive measures, including a ban on political rallies, church gatherings, and closure of schools, in his Wednesday address on the country’s preparedness in combating the deadly disease.
President Yoweri Museveni said Ugandans who wanted to travel back home from nations affected by Coronavirus were free, provided they are ready to undergo quarantine for a fortnight at their own cost. But even before the president’s announcement, quarantine at Entebbe was already costing returnees $100 per night.
One of the people lifting the lid on the situation at the hotel is university professor and cartoonist Jimmy Spire Ssentongo. The academic narrates what he and others went through, from arrival to the conditions inside the inn.
Here, we share Ssentongo’s description of the conditions at the only known isolation centre near the Entebbe International Airport:
Right now at Entebbe airport where we’ve been held for about three hours in confusion as we (about 40 people – mostly Ugandans) are told that we are going to be taken to a hotel where we shall have to pay $100 per night for 14 days! That is $1400 (5,180,000/)! It appears the said hotel is also full, hence abandoning us at the airport.
Precaution is low, high-risk, the congestion careless… One stands high risk of getting infected here. All appears to be done in random panic. Health officers don’t even care to inform the herded people about precautions to take!
[For example, here sits a woman]. She says she’s been held at the airport with no communication on what to do for the last five hours. On the pillar besides is a writing: ‘Welcome to Uganda, the pearl of Africa’. I’m feeling at home on this veranda too, with an interesting group of stranded bonding strangers returning from different countries. Someone is in deep thought on the side with his exhausted son laying on his lap. We have the virus in check.
Finally, a van (Costa) comes, we are packed in tightly with all the luggage to head to Central Inn. Having come from high risk places, many were very cautious on arrival. Now that much of it has lost meaning, it’s total luck.
Been safely quarantined at P. M. Bachengana’s Central Inn at $60 per night, excluding meals. Cash at booking in. An average meal is $3. A 500ml bottle of water is 4000/.
The presidential announcement making it mandatory came in as we were already on the way. But that doesn’t matter. Since it’s already past 3am anyway and this is deemed unfair, no one is willing to pay; and there are no options at this hour. So, we are sleeping in the lobby.
Still camped at the Central Inn hotel lobby. It’s now been two nights awake (including a 24-hour flight), not even any refreshing. Even children are laying in the cold sofas uncovered! We protest being herded at this expensive place without any alternatives for those who may not be able to afford or willing to be subjected to the injustice, yet expected to pay cash before ordering for anything. Even a basic thing like drinking water is at 4000/!
This is more of torture in the pretense of work and providing guises for extortion! What kind of quarantine is this where there is no care whether we infect each other at all! There isn’t even a single health officer here! We are just dumped here to spend on their hotel services. People haven’t even taken a shower in 36 hours! This is more about making money than quarantining, and we refuse to support the heartless scheme.
The point in quarantining people is to control the spreading of disease. Thus far, many of us are in support of the measure. But I only support it to the extent that it can be effective. What we are subjected to here is hostage, not quarantine.
POOR HOTEL STAFF!
No health officer has stepped here since yesterday to see what is happening. It is hotel staff in charge, and they barely have knowledge on how to safely conduct themselves in the circumstances. They are mixing with us, many without proper protection or precaution. They are handling money and other stuff from us with bare hands and minimal use of sanitizers. Of course, their work is to extract as much foreign currency from us as they can.
They are walking in and out of the hotel gate. They all seem confused about what’s going on. One has confided in us that there was a group of Chinese here earlier that they did not know how to handle and were scared of. Talking to some of them the impression you get is that much of the knowledge they have about the disease is either at the surface or mythical. Literally, we are dumped here.
This can easily become a breeding center from which the virus could spread to the outside through workers. And all of us here are at high risk of being infected. I understand that adherence to self-quarantine may be difficult. It requires high discipline. But I’m convinced I would be safer self-isolating in a room at home than at this potential mortuary. All we have here is a good example on how not to quarantine.
At the smell of money, anything can become a commodity in this country! So, we are basically here as food to some heartless vampire that saw a business opportunity in the disease. If hell has a kiln, the gluttons behind this should be the firewood.
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