Tokyo bans flights from Dhaka after questionable Covid-19 tests
Questions raised over the country’s coronavirus testing capacity at international level
Japan has banned flights from Bangladesh after it found some passengers carrying negative Covid-19 test reports as positive.
Meantime, South Korea has also expressed its scepticism about Bangladesh's testing capacity.
This happened after passengers of two chartered flights from Bangladesh with health clearance tested positive for Covid-19 after arriving in those countries.
China's Southern Airlines' flight CZ392 from Dhaka to Guangzhou was also suspended on Sunday for four weeks, after 17 passengers on board tested positive for Covid-19.
Media reports show many died in Bangladesh with Covid-19 like symptoms though their coronavirus test reports came negative. Apart from this, samples from the deceased show Covid-19 presence though they were previously tested negative to the virus.
After raising controversy over test accuracy in Bangladesh, these mismatches now question Bangladesh's coronavirus testing at the international level.
The Bangladesh Biman operated a few chartered flights to Japan last April. Though the passengers had Bangladeshi health clearances, Japan found four passengers positive with the virus upon arrival.
Subsequently, the country put a moratorium on all chartered flights from Bangladesh in May amid the coronavirus pandemic. With similar experiences, South Korea also became suspicious about Bangladeshi passengers.
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said, "The Japanese embassy had chartered our flights. Now the same country has banned chartered flights from Bangladesh. We have said the Japanese embassy is responsible for the issue as the embassy made the list of people who will get on the flight. They simply wanted an aero plane from Biman."
"Now the blame is being pinned on us. We are not responsible for someone testing positive after flying there. So it is not our fault in any way," he added.
Five people travelling to South Korea with Bangladeshi health clearance also tested positive to the virus upon arrival. "That too was a chartered flight. Those who rent the flight are supposed to make sure that no Covid-19 positive person is on the flight," the foreign minister added.
However, he thinks Bangladesh cannot shrug off the responsibility as the tests were conducted here. "Now questions surface over the accuracy of our test," said Momen.
He said, "Our testing process is not standardised. It has numerous issues."
At the Covid-19 prevention committee meeting led by Health Minister Zahid Maleque on May 30, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen also emphasised ensuring test accuracy.
In the meantime, Biman Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Md Mokabbir Hossain told The Business Standard that Japan banned flights from 110 countries including Bangladesh.
"The country suspended entry of Bangladeshi passengers, not banned any specific airline," he added.
"The chartered flights were operated by Japan and approved by the Japan embassy in Dhaka. In cases, there were embassy representatives at the airport. I do not know why the country slapped a ban on Bangladesh," added the Biman managing director.