RT-PCR tests at HSIA now likely from Tuesday
The RT-PCR tests at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, mandatory for travel to the UAE, where a large population of expatriate Bangladeshis reside, is expected to start from Tuesday.
However, the start date of rapid PCR tests at the airport depends on the success of the trials, said M Mafidur Rahman, chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh.
Experimental tests were carried out yesterday at the labs that were finally set up on Saturday after missing several dates promised by ministers.
The health directorate would inform CAAB how the test run fared.
Based on the health directorate's feedback, CAAB will inform the concerned airlines to start selling their tickets, Rahman told reporters yesterday.
For this, 48 hours will be required.
Meanwhile, the six healthcare facilities that set up the rapid PCR labs at the airport are waiting on the UAE authorities to sign off on their standard operating procedures.
Asked about the government's slow response to setting up the rapid PCR tests that saw many migrant workers' work visas expire, he said: "The government gave its best effort to this end."
The Gulf state had imposed a flight ban from Bangladesh on May 12 following a huge spike in cases in the preceding weeks and the emergence of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus.
While the ban was lifted on August 4, it came with a condition: a negative result from a PCR test done six hours before departure for entry.
Such a rapid test result is possible if there are testing facilities at the airports. But none of the Bangladeshi airports has them -- yet.
As a result, more than 20,000 UAE residents from Bangladesh, including migrant workers and professionals, are yet to re-join their workplaces and risking losing their jobs.
The stranded expatriates had been demanding for speedy setup of the testing facility at the Dhaka airport but the government's response has been slow-moving.
Of the 10 countries that require rapid PCR tests for entry to the UAE, only Bangladesh and Nigeria are yet to set up the testing facilities at the airports.
Last fiscal year, the expatriate Bangladeshis in the UAE accounted for about 10 percent of the $24.8 billion of remittance the country received, according to data from the Bangladesh Bank.
For passengers travelling to the UAE passengers, two tests must be carried out before departure: one 48 hours before the flight and the other within six hours. The latter test will be conducted at the airport.
Initially, the six RT-PCR labs have been set up inside Terminal-1 of the airport. Later, those will be shifted to the designated space on the rooftop of the multi-storied car parking building of the airport.
On September 15, the expatriates' welfare ministry announced that based on the recommendations made by the health directorate, they have permitted seven healthcare facilities to set up labs at the HSIA.
However, one of the healthcare facilities later withdrew itself from the initiative.