The RT-PCR labs to test departing migrants for Covid-19 were ready at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport on Saturday, said sources.
As a result of setting up the labs, there will be no obstacle for the United Arab Emirates-bound migrant workers to return to their workplaces.
However, no UAE-bound migrant workers left by any flight yesterday as the airport labs did not start testing the workers yet.
"No migrants were tested on Saturday, but around 100 airport staff members were tested on a trial basis. The trial was conducted to avoid any complication during commercial operation," Dr Shahriar Sajjad, health officer at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, told The Business Standard.
The UAE has made it mandatory for migrant returnees to get two Covid-19 tests – one 48 hours before flying from Bangladesh and another six hours before the flight.
The return of around 40,000 expatriate workers to their workplaces in the UAE was uncertain as there was no RT-PCR labs at Bangladesh' airports.
Dr Shahriar Sajjad said the migrants need to buy tickets with a fixed flight date and time to get tested on time as per the UAE's demand. As the labs at the airport were not ready before Saturday to test passengers six hours before their flights, there were no migrant workers with Covid-19 negative report obtained 48 hours before.
"The six laboratories have completed all the procedure to conduct Covid-19 test under our supervision. We have informed the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) about the lab installation. Now, they will contact concerned airlines who operate flights to the United Arab Emirates," he added.
He expressed hopes that the migrant workers will be able to fly from Sunday or Monday after completing all these procedures.
The technical committee of DGHS also visited the labs on Saturday.
"The RT-PCR lab is completely ready. The airlines can carry passengers according to their schedule," said Professor Dr Nasima Sultana, additional director general of DGHS.
"We have asked the six laboratories to prepare reports within three hours. The six labs can provide 5,200 passengers' test reports in three hours. If a passenger arrives late due to an accident, he can be tested within two hours," she said.
Earlier, on Friday, the Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmad said the RT-PCR test will start on Saturday.
On 6 September, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina issued a directive to set up RT-PCR labs as soon as possible at three international airports in the country.
On 15 September, the expatriates' welfare ministry permitted six private organisations to set up labs at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
The preliminary process of installing the RT-PCR lab at the airport started after a long struggle of returnee migrants on Wednesday.
As part of the experimental initiative, 46 UAE returnees returned to their workplaces after they were tested negative through the RT-PCR lab on Wednesday under the DNFR Molecular lab and Diagnostic – one of the six laboratories to conduct PCR testing in the airport.
On 23 September, health minister Zahid Maleque said 12 machines would be installed in six labs which will test at least 3,500-4,000 people for Covid-19 per day.
Although an initiative was taken to set up a lab on the roof of the parking building at the airport, the organisations approved to set up the lab had objections. Later a new location was determined.
Samples will be taken from passengers on the north side of the second floor of the terminal building and tested in the lab downstairs.
Outbound passengers will be able to undergo Covid-19 tests at the RT-PCR lab booths by paying Tk1,700-Tk2,300, according to a ministry circular issued last Wednesday.