- Some countries now require travellers' PCR test results 4-8 hours before flight
- PM directed officials on 6 Sept to install testing facilities at airports within 2-3days
- No official could say when facilities would be set up
Outbound migrants' suffering continues as RT-PCR testing facilities for Covid-19 have not yet been set up at all international airports.
Several thousand expatriates bound for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are now in uncertainty over returning to the Gulf country.
At a cabinet meeting on 6 September, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina instructed officials to install RT-PCR testing facilities at the international airports in Dhaka, Chattogram, and Sylhet within two to three days.
This came as some countries had imposed the condition that travellers would have to submit Covid-19 PCR test results four to eight hours prior to their scheduled flights.
But no government official concerned could exactly say when the testing facilities would be set up.
Emirates recently said they would not allow passengers from Bangladesh to board the UAE-bound flights as there were no RT-PCR testing facilities at airports.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh said the expatriates' welfare ministry was responsible for implementing the 6 September cabinet meeting decision.
Its Chairman Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman told The Business Standard the expatriates' welfare ministry and the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) were jointly handling the matter.
He said the DGHS was doing a technical assessment of which company was more capable of doing the job.
The final decision would be made by the ministry, he said.
He does not know the reason behind the delay in setting up the testing facilities at airports.
"We know DMFR Molecular Lab and Diagnostics, a private company, is going to be awarded the job. They are experienced in setting up mobile laboratories," he added.
DGHS Spokesperson Professor Dr Robed Amin told The Business Standard the biomedical committee had held a meeting to set up PCR labs at airports and preparations were almost complete.
"I cannot say any exact date, but the testing facilities will soon be installed at airports, and testing will then begin. Tests will be done under government management," he said.
He could not say why a private organisation would set up the testing facilities instead of a government one.
Expatriates' welfare ministry Secretary Ahmed MunirusSaleheen could not be reached for comments on the matter.
ShahidulAlam, director general of the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training, said setting up RT-PCR testing facilities was in process as a joint committee of the health ministry and the expatriates' welfare ministry had already been formed.
An inter-ministerial meeting chaired by the expatriates' welfare minister, Imran Ahmad, on 1 September decided to issue a notification for setting up testing labs.
Besides, a technical committee, with the DGHS director general as its chairman, was formed to verify the capabilities of the interested organisations.
A place has been selected to set up a PCR lab at Dhaka airport, said sources. The airport authorities are waiting for the ministries concerned to take the next steps.
DrShahriarSajjad, health officer at HazratShahjalal International Airport, told The Business Standard they had been informed that DMFR Molecular Lab and Diagnostics had brought the machine to set up testing facilities.
He said a technical committee meeting was scheduled to be held on Saturday (11 September) at the DGHS in this regard.
Bangladeshis have not been able to return to the UAE since 13 May due to the obligation of getting Covid-19 negative certificates through testing at least six hours before the flight.
They came to Bangladesh on vacation but are now stranded. They have held street demonstrations, demanding they be allowed to return.
To solve their problem, the 6 September cabinet meeting directed officials to set up RT-PCR labs at airports.
The desperate expatriates are spending twice or thrice as much as the regular airfare to travel to the UAE via Colombo, Nepal, and Turkey.
Around 7,000 expatriates returned home from the UAE over the last several months, sources at different recruiting agencies said.