This Prothom Alo correspondent at the airport talked to several migrants bound for the United Arab Emirates. They said they had to reach the airport at least nine hours early. Some started from home at midnight while some set out a day ago. Many do not have relatives in Dhaka. They have to stay at hotels.
Md Shaheed was standing with luggage at Terminal 1 at the airport. His eyes had turned red with lack of sleep. He entered the airport at 12:00pm on Wednesday to fly at 1:30am on Thursday. He set out from Churkhai of Mymensingh at 3:00am on Wednesday.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Shaheed said he has carried out his coronavirus test at a hospital near the Army Stadium. Tickets could be cancelled twelve hours before the flight, so they underwent Covid tests outside and entered the airport with the coronavirus results.
Have you had anything to eat? It's past lunch time. Shaheed replied, there was no restaurant where they reached early in the morning. They just had bananas and bread.
Tiles fitter Md Sharif came home on March 2021. He has been working for twelve years in Dubai. He left his mother and pregnant wife at home. His younger brother Md Farid came to see him off. He waited till 7:30pm. He set out in a bus for home in Mymensingh after his elder brother came out with negative coronavirus results.
It was the same for Md Nayeem Hasan of Cumilla, Tipu Sultan and Sheikh Jahidunnabi of Noakhali.
Sheikh Jahidunnabi said he came from Noakhali on Wednesday morning. He stayed at a hotel as he has no relation in Dhaka. He underwent coronavirus test at iccdr,b and got his results. He is to fly at 1:30am. He has to stay 13 hours at the airport. How is it possible to spend this long time, he asked.
On condition of anonymity, DGHS officials said time would have been reduced if appropriate steps had been taken. It takes less time to test by Rapid PCR. But the health directorate prefers RTPCR. As a result, the outbound migrants have to endure such inordinate sufferings.
Sources said UAE in the beginning set conditions to conduct rapid PCR tests to enter the country. The use of this machine started in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. The benefit of this machine is the results can be obtained in an hour at the most. At total of 96 samples can be tested at a time. There is no necessity of setting up any separate establishment for this. Only chairs and tables are enough for the purpose. Some organisations have imported rapid PCR machines in Bangladesh, but the health directorate did not take steps to utilise these.
Sources said it takes six hours to conduct test with RTPCR. It is also complicated to set up these machines. At the same time, many passengers gather at the same time. Now the coronavirus situation is under control. If the corona situation worsens, it may be risky to carry out tests with passengers crowding in one place.
Former dean of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) basic science faculty, M Iqbal Arslan, said, "This problem will not be solved without Rapid PCR. A number of countries are using this machine. These machines are not rare and these are being marketed. There were no steps to procure these machines even one and half months after the declaration of the prime minister Sheikh Hasina in this regard. On the contrary some of the management said PCR means RTPCR. It is not understandable how they are saying this."
Sources said those interested to take responsibility to conduct coronvirus test at the airport were invited at a Zoom meeting on 14 September. As per condition of UAE, those without rapid PCR to deliver services were supposed to be dropped earlier.
After the meeting, the health directorate published a list of seven companies. These companies only gave the prices of RTPCR machines. Many reputed companies gave prices of rapid PCR but they were dropped from the list, sources said.
Now discussions are going about setting up RTPCR at Osmani International Airport in Sylhet and Shah Amanat International Airport in Chattogram. It took time to get permission from UAE for setting up RTPCR instead of rapid PCR, sources at the health directorate said.
DGHS additional directorate general Nasima Sultana didn't answer the question as to why RT PCR machines were installed instead of rapid PCR available in the country.
Earlier, she told this correspondent to send questions in a text message.
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo online edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul islam.