The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has approved the standard operating procedure (SOP) of the installed RT-PCR labs which will carry out Covid-19 test of departing migrants at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, ending the long wait of many hoping to return to their workplaces in the Gulf country.
"The UAE embassy in Dhaka sent a letter with the approval on Wednesday as the labs met the proposed SOP," Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) Chairman Air Vice Marshall Muhammad Mafidur Rahman told journalists at the airport.
"This decision is effective as of 12:00 noon of September 29. Therefore, we request you to kindly give permission to start operation for regular flights between Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates," reads a letter from the UAE embassy.
Now, the newly-built six RT-PCR labs at the airport will start testing outbound passengers for Covid-19.
Dr Shahriar Sajjad, health officer at Dhaka airport, told TBS yesterday, "Two flights may operate on Wednesday carrying UAE-bound passengers after testing.
"One of the flights will depart at 7:30pm. If passengers can come six hours before the flight, they can be tested through the RT-PCR labs. Otherwise, they may not be able to fly today," he added.
He said that Emirate airlines is trying to arrange another flight if they get passengers.
Around 40,000 expatriates, who came home on vacation, have been unable to return to the UAE as the Gulf country in August made pre-flight Covid testing mandatory for inbound passengers.
In an announcement, the country said that foreign passengers must do a PCR-test for Covid-19 a maximum of six hours before their flight.
The lack of such testing facilities in the country's international airports, however, meant many returnees were stranded in Bangladesh.
Following that, those stranded demanded that testing facilities be quickly set up at international airports as migrant workers and professionals feared that they would lose their jobs if they failed to reach their workplaces.
On 15 September, the expatriates' welfare ministry announced that they had permitted six private healthcare firms to set up Covid testing labs at Dhaka airport upon the recommendations of the health directorate.
The six firms submitted the SOP on 16 September to the UAE.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on 6 September instructed the authorities concerned to immediately set up labs at the country's three international airports in Dhaka, Chattogram and Sylhet.