There is a lot to discussion on coronavirus and mountain gorilla trekking. Mountain gorillas are part of the world’s most endangered animal species and very susceptible to human disease. Therefore any negligence on the safety of the mountain gorillas cause devastating effects that can heavily be regrettable.
Oxford Brookes University conducted research regarding the threat tourists pose to the health of the mountain gorillas. In the research is a highlight that shows that there is a likelihood of tourists infecting mountain gorillas with air borne diseases such as flu or cough. This is based on an incident that happened over 10 years ago where two mountain gorillas might have died of air borne diseases that might have been caused by a tourist.
During Uganda gorilla trekking safaris or Rwanda gorilla tours, there are set rules that guides the interaction of humans with the mountain gorillas. Individuals are advised to keep a 7 meter distance from the mountain gorillas. However, the mountain gorillas do not know this rule and can move closer to the people and even touch them.
This poses a threat to mountain gorillas since they are susceptible to human diseases. So, how safe are the mountain gorillas from the COVID-19 infection?
Surely, all international airports including Uganda’s Entebbe International Airport and Rwanda’s Kigali International Airport screen all travelers that are arriving into the country. Uganda has no recorded case of COVID-19 though Rwanda has had 1 imported case of the coronavirus patient but has been quarantined to avoid spread.
Even without the coronavirus outbreak, no individual is allowed to trek gorillas either in Rwanda or Uganda when they have a cold or cough. No tourist is allowed to trek the mountain gorillas when they have any sign of flu. Following this rule the spread of the COVID-19 would be contained from reaching the mountain gorillas.
The Uganda Wildlife Authority and Rwanda Development Board have not yet stopped gorilla trekking activities. However, there are measures that have been set for travelers entering the countries. There are travel bans for tourists from some countries that cannot visit the countries.
In Uganda, 16 countries have been marked as category 1 and are advised to only visit the country when necessary. These include China, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, South Korea, San Marino, Belgium, USA, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Malaysia and Spain.
All individual from countries in category 1 who insist on visiting Uganda will be subjected to self-quarantine or institutional quarantine (health facility) at their own cost.
Note: It is recommended to not go gorilla trekking in case you are unwell and if you are from countries that have been placed in category 1.
It is therefore the recommendation and encouragement of the Uganda Tourism Board that intended travelers to Uganda from the affected countries maintain their bookings but delay their travel until a later date when the disease is globally contained and no longer considered a pandemic.
Additionally, due to the current threat posed by Coronavirus to Uganda travel trade and tourism assets, it is the recommendation of the Uganda Tourism Board that;
Report any suspicious cases of COVID-19 to the toll-free numbers here: 0800 100066 and 0800 203033.
Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include;
In case you are visiting either countries for a Uganda safari or Rwanda tour, you may have to revise your travel plans. You are advised to hold your travel plans till the outbreak of the coronavirus disease is contained just to avoid importation or the possibility of you getting infected from infected travelers.
Here are some of the recommended itineraries that tourists can choose when going on the East Africa safari.