Kampala — Uganda has suspended all flights coming into the country from India after recording new variants of the coronavirus, including the COVID-19 variant from India.
The ban began Saturday at midnight.
The new directive follows the Ministry of Health researchers detecting one case of the coronavirus disease, an Indian variant, in the East African country.
India has so far recorded more than 18.8 million COVID-19 cases, with deaths topping 200,000 in the past week -- with new infection cases surpassing 400,000.
Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, Uganda's minister for health, outlined the travel restrictions.
"All passenger flights between Uganda and India are suspended until further notice," she said. "No travelers from India shall be allowed into Uganda, regardless of the route of travel."
Aceng stressed that all travelers who may have been in India or traveled through India in the last 14 days, regardless of route taken, will not be allowed into Uganda.
She said Uganda has so far recorded 399 cases out of the five variants circulating in Uganda. Other variants identified include variants from Nigeria, the United Kingdom and South Africa.
Minister Aceng says even though the epidemiological distribution and impact of these variants in Uganda is currently unknown, experts continue to study the progression.
Mohan Rao, head of the Indian Association in Uganda, a community-led organization, said that even though the cancelation of flights is going to affect trade and other engagements, the association welcomes the move.
Rao said his group has written to the Ministry of Health seeking permission to carry out a sensitization drive among the Indian community. He has been sending text messages to members of the community and also wants to have community meetings. These are allowed in Uganda, as long as people wear masks and social distance, with a limit of 200 people at a time.
Back in March, India was one of the countries that donated 100,00 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Uganda as it kicked off distributing vaccination among frontline workers, such as health care professionals and other service providers.
In an address to the country in March, President Yoweri Museveni noted it was becoming riskier for a country like Uganda to depend on external vaccine support to curb the spread of COVID-19.
"India now has got very big rise in the cases," the president said. "They are in a very big crisis. They are struggling to solve their own problems and here we are waiting also in line to get support from them. This is not correct."
Since March 2020, Uganda has recorded 41,866 COVID cases and 342 deaths.