‘Question of our survival’
A group of UAE-based expatriates, who got stranded at home amid the pandemic, yesterday gathered at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport's multi-storey car park to demand speedy installation of RT-PCR labs there.
The building has been selected for setting up the RT-PCR facilities as the UAE government last month set a condition that foreigners must have rapid PCR tests for Covid-19 maximum six hours before boarding the flights to the Gulf country.
Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) Chairman Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman said seven healthcare facilities have been selected for setting up RT-PCR labs at HSIA.
Six of them have submitted standard operating procedures (SOP), which have been sent to the UAE. Installing the labs at the airport will start upon approval from the UAE authorities, he told journalists at the airport.
Earlier on Saturday, the CAAB chairman said Covid-19 testing at HSIA will begin within three to four days.
Several thousand Bangladeshi expatriates, including migrant workers and professionals, who got stuck at home amid the pandemic, have been demanding RT-PCR labs at international airports since the Gulf country last month withdrew ban on passenger flights from Bangladesh.
UAE-based expatriate Salahuddin, one of yesterday's demonstrators, told this newspaper that many of them were ready to fly to UAE.
"It's the question of our survival," he said, adding many of them have already booked air tickets and completed other necessary procedures but the only obstacle is the absence of RT-PCR labs at airports.
He urged the government to set up the test facilities without further delay.
UAE-based expatriate Mohiuddin Belal alleged the government's dillydally in setting up the testing facilities only augmented their sufferings.
He said when the government selected the seven institutions a few days ago, there was no mention of further requirement of UAE approval but such issue has emerged now.
The seven facilities are Stemz Healthcare (BD) Limited, Dhaka; CSBF Health Centre; AMZ Hospital Limited, Dhaka; Anwar Khan Modern Medical College Hospital, Dhaka; Zainul Haque Sikder Women's Medical College and Hospital (Pvt) Ltd, Dhaka; Gulshan Clinic Limited, Dhaka; and DMFR Molecular Lab and Diagnostic.
According to a letter issued by the expatriates' welfare ministry on September 15 says the seven healthcare facilities have been selected by the Directorate General of Health Services while CAAB has been tasked with allocating space for setting up the labs at the airport.