Delay in setting up RT-PCR labs at airport
It seems the news on Wednesday that seven healthcare facilities would set up RT-PCR labs at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) within three to six days was a sham. These labs are desperately needed by the between 30,000 and 50,000 migrant workers, who have been stranded here and unable to go back to work in the UAE for months. This is due to the fact that, on August 4, the UAE government imposed a condition for migrant workers from different countries to carry a Covid-19 negative certificate based on an RT-PCR test result obtained within six hours before boarding their plane. Though countries like India and Pakistan responded promptly by arranging for RT-PCR labs at their airports, the same cannot be said for Bangladesh—a country that owes 10 percent of its USD 24.8 billion of remittance in the last fiscal year to migrant workers in the UAE.
A report by this daily published on Saturday has revealed how the setting up of these labs is still far-fetched as there are a couple of issues that the authorities involved must resolve. First, the chosen seven healthcare facilities must have their standards of procedures approved by the UAE government in order for their test results to be acceptable. Second, though the seven firms have told the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (Caab) that the rooftop space of the airport's parking building allocated to them is unsuitable for setting up RT-PCR labs, it seems the Caab is reluctant to cooperate. Its representatives have been reported saying that the healthcare facilities "will have to create an environment for setting up labs at their own expense" and that "action" will be taken against any organisation unable to set up the lab within the stipulated time.
The tone of the Caab's response is hard to overlook. Especially since the priority should be to set up effective RT-PCR labs that can carry out proper Covid-19 testing of our migrant workers, so they can return to their workplaces and resume earning their livelihoods—which have been stumped for months due to the government's apathy towards them and their needs. The Caab must understand that this is not the time to create conflict or try to avert responsibility. Moreover, it is baffling that this is the state of operations even after authorities received directives by the prime minister herself to set up rapid Covid-19 testing labs not just at HSIA, but also at the country's other two international airports. It seems not even the protesting workers' movement of fasting unto death earlier this week, demanding that these labs be set up, has communicated the urgency of the matter to the authorities involved.
We would urge the relevant authorities—mainly the Caab—to cooperate with each other and to set up proper RT-PCR labs at all three of our international airports quickly, but not hastily. The quality of service must be ensured so that outbound migrant workers are not faced with even more troubles.