Pcr Lab at Shahjalal Airport: CAAB, healthcare facilities at odds
Complications have arisen regarding setting up rapid RT-PCR labs at the Dhaka airport to test outgoing passengers for Covid-19, continuing the uncertainty surrounding the return of around 30,000 expatriate workers to their workplaces in the UAE.
The seven facilities made responsible for testing the workers said in a meeting with Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (Caab) officials on Thursday that the venue provided to them is unsuitable, and there is the added complication of their standard operating procedures being approved by UAE authorities.
In this context, sources at the expatriates' welfare ministry and Caab failed to say exactly when the labs would be set up at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA).
Following Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's directives to setting up rapid PCR lab for Covid-19 tests for outbound passengers at the country's three international airports within three to four days, the expatriates' welfare ministry on September 15 gave permission to seven healthcare facilities to set up labs at HSIA.
The seven firms chosen by the Directorate General of Health Services are: Stemz Healthcare (BD) Limited; CSBF Health Centre; AMZ Hospital Limited; Anwar Khan Modern Medical College Hospital; Zainul Haque Sikder Women's Medical College and Hospital (Pvt) Ltd; Gulshan Clinic Limited; and DMFR Molecular Lab and Diagnostic.
The facilities were given between three to six days to set up the labs and the fees for the Covid-19 test were fixed between Tk 1,700 and Tk 2,300.
Caab on Thursday held a meeting at its headquarters in the city's Kurmitola with representatives of the seven facilities and asked them to set up the labs at the open space on the roof of the multi-storied parking building to the north of HSIA.
The representatives however said the open roof is not suitable for setting up rapid-PCR labs.
Another complication is that, the seven organisations will have to send their SOPs to the UAE to verify whether they are up to requisite standards.
"If UAE raises objections about the SOP of any healthcare facilities, they will not get the job," an official who had knowledge of the meeting said.
Caab chairman Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman, who chaired the meeting, wanted to know from the seven organisations how long they would take to set up the labs and the number of manpower needed, meeting sources said.
Representatives of the seven organisations said temperatures on the roof and wind will create obstacles to testing activities.
They demanded that Caab allocates spaces to set up labs on the second floor of the car park.
"There are various obstacles in setting up rapid-PCR test lab in an open space. Besides, setting up tents or mobile sheds will also not be possible to carry out test," a representative of one of the seven healthcare facilities said.
Caab, however, rejected their objections, saying they have already informed the intended organisations that space will be provided on the roof for setting up the lab.
"Those who will work will have to create an environment for setting up labs at their own expense. If the lab is not set up within the stipulated time after receiving the work order, action will be taken against the respective organisation," he said.
In August, the UAE lifted ban on flight operations from Bangladesh and several other countries but made the rapid PCR test result mandatory for passengers flying in from Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Uganda, Vietnam, Zambia and Indonesia.
Since then, the expatriate Bangladeshis in UAE, who sent home about 10 percent of the $24.8 billion of remittance the country received in the last fiscal year, have been demanding setting up of rapid PCR test labs at the country's three international airports.