Bangladeshi expats' return plans to the UAE have hit a serious snag due to the lack of Rapid PCR testing facilities at airports in the country.
Flights were expected to take off on Sunday after the UAE said residents with a valid visa and fully vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine would be permitted to fly back, reports Gulf News.
This included passengers from Bangladesh as well. But several prospective passengers were stranded at airports in Bangladesh due to the absence of rapid PCR testing facilities.
"The PCR testing facilities are already there at the airports - but haven't been set up yet," said a UAE-based representative from Biman Bangladesh Airlines.
The facilities were expected to go live in the next few days - Biman is now pinning its hopes on the coming week, said the airline source. "[But] we are not sure about that either."
An official at Dhaka's Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport said the installation of RT-PCR testing facilities is taking longer than expected, and added that they were waiting to hear further from higher authorities.
UAE suspended flights from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan in April amid a spike in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant. When India and Pakistan received the UAE's government's green light last month, several airports in those countries could not meet the requirement of a Rapid PCR test six hours prior to departure. This led to last-minute flights cancellations and passengers left stranded.
Travel agencies in UAE are optimistic about Dhaka returning as a destination soon. Dubai-based Regal Tours expects flight to re-start in a week or so. "Passengers were initially stranded, but now they are aware of the situation and waiting for normal flights to resume," said a spokesperson.
As per media reports, four rapid PCR-test machines will be placed at the parking area on the second floor of Dhaka airport. The machines will be able to carry out PCR-tests of 2500 passengers every day.
As per booking websites, the earliest flights from Dhaka to Dubai are available from September 16. An Emirates flight on that date will cost passengers Dh2,245. Air Arabia Abu Dhabi has two flights from Dhaka to Abu Dhabi on September 15 with seats priced around Dh1,800.
Etihad Airways on Sunday said passengers will only be permitted to travel from Bangladesh if they are transiting in Abu Dhabi. "This is because Rapid PCR testing is not yet available from Bangladesh," an airline spokesperson told Gulf News.