The business operation belt in Kolkata's New Market-Sudder Street-Marquis Street-Free School Street area has tied up with a diagnostic centre to facilitate same-day Covid tests for Bangladeshi citizens.
A swab collection centre on Marquis Street set up by a functionary of the Calcutta Hotel, Guest House & Restaurant Owners' Association (CHGHROA) will start functioning from today, The Times of India reported.
The facility will not only help put Bangladeshi visitors at ease but also prevent them being fleeced by unscrupulous touts who charge a premium for the test.
Bangladesh Covid SOP requires its citizens to get a Covid test performed 24 hours before returning to the country.
Businesses in the vicinity depend on Bangladeshis — family members of patients who visit the city for treatment and businessmen.
"Many Bangladeshi traders and businessmen who are keen to visit Kolkata and start business again are wary of the difficulties in getting Covid tests done. We have therefore tied up with Repro Med Diagnostics for same-day test reports at Rs 1,700 per head, inclusive of Rs 200 fee for PPE," said CHGHROA executive member Monotosh Saha.
At present, touts in the belt charge Rs 2,200-2,500 per test from Bangladeshi nationals.
According to Tapan Ray of ATN Medicare, reports of swab samples collected between 8am and noon will be provided the same evening between 8.30 and 10.30. Reports of samples collected in the second half will be available in the morning. The diagnostic centre has a daily capacity of 200 tests.
Travel Agents Federation of India chairman (east) Anil Punjabi hailed the initiative and said it would go a long way in boosting the confidence of Bangladeshi travellers. "Let's hope travel visas resume at the earliest so that businesses that have hit a rock bottom can revive," he said.
Hotel and restaurant owners as well as markets in the neighbourhood, including New Market, are looking forward to a meeting between Indian PM Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina scheduled on December 17 for resumption of tourist visas between the two countries.
With only patients and businessmen allowed to travel right now, hotels in this belt get only 50-60 guests a day against 6,000 earlier. Of the 4,000 rooms in the area that depend on Bangladeshi tourists and visitors, only 50-odd are occupied at present.