September 25, 2022, 6:53 am

Staff Correspondent

2021-09-09 16:39:20 BdST

Govt looks for alternatives to run corona tests for UAE-bound passengers

The government mulls using mobile coronavirus testing centres until RT PCR labs are set up at the airports to meet the requirement of United Arab Emirates (UAE) to test passengers for Covid-19 six hours before their departure.

According to sources at the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the government is actively considering the plan as a RT-PCR labs cannot be set up immediately at the airports for some technical reasons.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently ordered to make immediate arrangements for setting up PCR testing facilities in the country’s three international airports.

“We are working on a few alternatives as we need more time to set up PCR labs at the airports. We will take the best possible decision after discussing with the UAE authorities,” said a senior official of the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment.

The government has not declared officially but the health ministry has already finalised a private company to conduct PCR tests at the airports through covered vans with all necessary facilities to run Covid-19 test and prepare reports, he added.

But the government may face two major problems with this alternative. The private company has only one mobile van which can prepare reports for 1,000 passengers per day while according to the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB), at least 2,700 to 3,000 passengers travel to UAE every day.

The government does not know how it would handle the additional pressure of the passengers if it fails to conduct RT-PCR tests of all UAE-bound passengers six hours before their departure.

The second problem will be regarding the place where the private company will set up the mobile coronavirus testing centre. The government is not sure whether the UAE authorities will allow them to conduct the test in any facility outside the airport.

That is why the government is working to send another proposal to the UAE authorities.

According to an official of the health ministry, it is mulling to keep all the UAE-bound passengers inside the airport and collect their samples through a temporary sample collection centre. The ministry will provide all the samples to testing labs close to the airports which will prepare and provide reports in time. In that case, no UAE-bound passengers will need to step outside the airports and the government will be able to meet the demand of additional passengers, said the source.

But the implementation of all these plans will depend on the consent of the UAE authorities.

Meanwhile, the spokesperson of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) and other experts have confirmed that it may take more time for setting up RT PCR labs at airports due to some technical reasons.

DGHS spokesperson Professor Dr Nazmul Islam said, “Machines need to be imported for setting up the RT PCR labs. And no matter whether it is the government or private organisation, it will not be possible in less than a month.”

Around 50,000 stranded Bangladeshi expatriates are waiting to return to their workplaces in the UAE.

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