It will take around a month to clear the backlog of some 10,500 Saudi Arabia-bound Bangladeshi expatriate workers who were stuck in the country due to the Gulf nation's two-week suspension of all international flights.
Saudi Arabia's General Authority of Civil Aviation yesterday announced the resumption of all international flights amid strict precautions against the new Covid-19 strain.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines will resume flights on three routes -- Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam -- from January 6, while Saudi Arabian Airlines will resume flights from January 5, said officials of the two airlines.
M Mokabbir Hossain, managing director and CEO of Biman, told The Daily Star that more than 5,200 passengers could not go to Saudi Arabia by Biman flights due to the suspension of flight operations between the countries on December 21.
An official of the Dhaka office of Saudi Arabian Airlines said at least 5,300 of its passengers were stuck in Bangladesh due to the suspension.
"We hope the backlog of passengers will be cleared within a month and we are working on reducing the passengers' hardships," the officials said, preferring to remain unnamed.
"We are also contacting our head office in Saudi Arabia about whether we can fly additional or special flights from Dhaka," he also said.
Biman CEO Mokabbir Hossain said the national airline operates 11 weekly flights to the kingdom -- four each to Riyadh and Jeddah and three to Dammam.
Saudia, the national flag carrier of Saudi Arabia, operates 14 weekly flights between the countries.
Biman yesterday requested the passengers of its cancelled flights to contact a nearby Biman sales office as per the schedule provided on the Biman website.
Seats will be allocated on a priority basis subject to vacancies on the flights, Biman said.
On December 20, Saudi Arabia had suspended all international flights to and from the country, with some exceptions, due to the spread of a new variant of Covid-19 discovered in the UK.
GACA in its circular yesterday said any foreign passenger wishing to enter Saudi Arabia from the United Kingdom, South Africa, and any other country determined by its Ministry of Health (in which the new mutated type of Covid-19 has spread) must spend at least 14 days outside the country impacted with the mutated virus before entering the kingdom.
These passengers must also undergo a PCR test after the expiration of this period to prove they are not infected.
Citizens and passengers allowed to enter the country on humanitarian grounds, coming from countries with widespread outbreak of the new mutated strain, will be quarantined in their homes under surveillance for 14 days.
They also have to take two PCR tests -- the first after arrival within a maximum of 48 hours, and the second before the end of the quarantine period, on the 13th day.
Passengers from countries that have recorded cases of the strain, but not a widespread outbreak, are to be quarantined in their homes under observation for seven days, and undergo a PCR test on the sixth day of arrival.
For passengers from the rest of the countries, precautions currently in place will be followed, including home quarantine for seven days or home quarantine for three days, and a PCR test, said the GACA circular.