Seven private labs were selected from among 23 that had shown interest in setting up the testing facilities
The Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment has approved seven private molecular labs to conduct Covid-19 Rapid rt-PCR tests for expatriate workers bound for the United Arab Emirates.
Bangladesh will be the fourth country in South Asia to start rapid rt-PCR tests at airports. The facility is expected to begin next week.
The labs, which were approved by the ministry on Tuesday, will charge Tk1,700-2,300 for the tests. The price depends on the facilitating lab.
The approved labs are Stemz Health Care (BD) Ltd, CSBF Health Centre, AMZ Hospital, Anwar Khan Modern Medical College and Hospital, ZH Sikder Women's Medical College and Hospital, Gulshan Clinic Limited, and DMFR Molecular Lab & Diagnostics.
Sources at the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) said the labs were selected from among 23 private labs that had shown their interest in setting up the airport testing facilities.
Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Secretary Ahmed Munirush Salehin told the media the labs were approved following the recommendations of a technical committee formed to recommend the setting up of rt-PCR labs at the country’s international airports.
The labs began setting up testing facilities on Wednesday and preparations were expected to take three to six days, he added.
The return of around 50,000 expatriate workers to the UAE fell into uncertainty in early August after the country made it mandatory for passengers to carry Covid-19 negative certificates from rt-PCR tests taken within six hours of departure.
India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have already set up rapid rt-PCR test facilities at their airports. After the setting up of the labs, the UAE lifted its travel ban on these countries.
Bangladesh started procedures to set up testing facilities at international airports near the end of last month. Upon a directive from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the Expatriates Ministry said the testing facilities would open by September 13, but they could not be prepared in time.
On Tuesday, expatriate workers organized demonstrations at the airport and a hunger strike at Probashi Bhaban in Dhaka in the demand for testing facilities at the airport.
Expatriate worker Shafiqul Islam said he had been working in Dubai for the last 13 years. The lack of rapid testing facilities at airports had stopped him from going back to his workplace.
He wondered who would be held responsible if employers lost their patience and the expatriate workers lost their jobs.
Several other expatriate workers also expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of testing facilities at airports.
The demonstrations and hunger strike were called off after Expatriates Minister Imran Ahmad assured the workers that the required testing facilities would be available soon.