Lack of coordination between the government agencies and the private companies for setting up RT-PCR labs at Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) is lingering the whole process, frustrating the stranded UAE-bound passengers.
Earlier this month, the UAE made it mandatory for Bangladeshi passengers planning to fly to the country to undergo coronavirus test at airport six hours before departure, but the ministries and agencies concerned have not yet set up RT-PCR labs at airport.
The two senior ministers even gave different statements on the issue.
Asked when RT-PCR labs would be opened at the airport, the expatriates’ welfare minister Imran Ahmed said, “It should have been started a week ago. But in reality it could not be done. It is taking a little time due to the involvement of different .”
“The UAE wants rapid PCR testing at airports but our country does not have rapid PCR testing equipment,” he added.
Standard operating procedures (SOPs) of six among the seven private companies approved by the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment were sent to the UAE authorities on Friday for further verification. But the UAE authorities are yet to make response.
While speaking about SOPs, the minister said, “This solely depends on the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB), not on the expatriates’ welfare ministry or health ministry. Civil aviation will work on the basis of where they sent it, how they will get clearance.”
“We approved the companies and sent their names to the CAAB. We are currently working on RT-PCR labs, and we will consider rapid tests later. I still can’t say where it will end,” he added.
Complication was arisen regarding the place where the private companies would set up RT-PCR labs at HSIA. Initially it was decided that a laboratory would be set up on the roof of the multi-storey car parking lot but now it has been decided that the laboratory will be set up inside the airport. “It would take 10 days to prepare the roof of the parking lot for setting up lab,” the expatriates’ welfare minister said, adding that there is also space inside the airport where laboratories would be set up in two to three days on a temporary basis.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque said that work has been given to 6 institutions that will set up laboratories on a small scale inside the airport for the time being.
“Another laboratory for corona test will be set up after the steel structure is installed on the roof of the airport’s multi-storey car parking lot. The place will be air-conditioned, with water and electricity facilities. Therefore, it will take a while,” the health minister said.
Asked when the lab would be launched, the health minister said that they have done the work they were asked to do.
The CAAB chairman Air Vice-Marshal M Mafidur Rahman said that accommodating large number of passengers wouldn’t be possible as the space inside the airport is small.
“We may inform the UAE authorities that we cannot test more than 300 people at a time. Once the laboratory is set up, we will be able to understand how many booths can be set up and how many people can be tested together,” he said.
The CAAB chairman said in normal times around 2,600 to 2,800 passengers travel from Bangladesh to the UAE every day.
When asked about the lack of coordination and responsibility of the agencies concerned for such a situation, the CAAB chairman said, “I will not talk about incoherence. The ministers of the two ministries have visited the airport today to resolve the issue. If there was lack of coordination, they would not come.”
Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Dr Ahmad Kaikaus, Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Secretary Dr Ahmed Munirush Salehin, and Director General of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) Professor Dr ABM Khurshid Alam, among others, were present during the visit.