Covid-19 Test: Many Saudi returnees on edge for tight flight schedule

From early morning to around 2:30pm yesterday, the situation seemed normal at the Dhaka North City Corporation Market at the city’s Mohakhali as the Bangladeshi expatriates — mainly Saudi Arabia and UAE-bound workers — stood in the queue for Covid-19 test.

Medical and other related staffers were prioritising those whose flights were scheduled to leave from Dhaka within the next 48 hours.

But after 2:30pm, around 20 to 30 expatriate workers entered there hurriedly and requested the medical officials to collect their samples immediately and give them the test reports within last night or today morning at the latest as their flights will leave Dhaka at 12:30pm today.

Moinul Ahsan, the civil surgeon of Dhaka, told this correspondent that they were supposed to get 48 hours to prepare the test reports of Saudi-bound passengers and that the time was fixed by the Saudi authorities.

But in some cases, the Saudi Airlines are issuing tickets and setting flight schedules in such a way that the workers are left with less than 24 hours to get tested and have the results, he said.

As a result, some expatriate workers were coming to them with a request to provide test results within eight to 10 hours.

“But we need at least 24 hours to carry out the Covid-19 test,” Moinul said.

Talking to this correspondent, several Saudi-bound passengers also blamed Saudi Airlines officials for confirming their flights without giving them the 48 hours.

While visiting the DNCC Market yesterday, this correspondent met a man rushing to the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport after getting his test report around 1:30pm with only four hours remaining in hand to catch his flight.

Asked the Saudi-bound Bangladeshi migrant worker hurriedly said he submitted his sample on Friday night and that his flight was scheduled to leave at 5:30pm.

Moinul Ahsan said they have been testing samples of around 1,500 to 1,700 people every day for the last couple of days.

So far, no Saudi-bound passengers have missed their flights due to delay in getting Covid-19 report from them, he said.

“We have the capacity to carry out more tests. But we need the minimum required time to carry out the tests,” he added.

Tarik A Alowardi, manager at Saudi Arabian Airlines in Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar, could not be reached for comment.

A top commercial officer of the airline wishing anonymity said they needed to check the matter.

Saudi Airlines is now operating weekly two flights from Dhaka. The airline has applied to the Civil Aviation Authority Bangladesh to increase the number of flights.

Biman is scheduled to resume its regular flight to Saudi from October 1.

The two airlines are scheduled to operate 10 special flights to Saudi between September 23 and September 30 to carry the stranded Bangladeshis workers waiting to return to their workplaces.


Meanwhile, 32 Bangladeshi expatriate workers were not allowed by the immigration authorities to travel to Saudi Arabia as they got tested from private hospitals instead of the government-approved test centre at Mohakhali.

The Saudi bound flight SV-3807 left the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at 6:30pm leaving them behind, said Plaban, an assistant health officer at the airport, told The Daily Star.

“Thirty-two passengers couldn’t be issued boarding pass as they had not Covid-19 test report from the government-approved test centre,” he also said.

The government initially designated 19 medical institutions and laboratories to carry out Covid-19 tests for overseas passengers following the scam of Regent Hospital and JKG Health Care.

In Dhaka there were three institutions — National Institute of Laboratory Medicine and Referral Centre, Institute of Public Health and National Institute of Preventive and Social Medicine.

Later, sample collection booths were set up only at Dhaka North City Corporation Market for overseas passengers to carry out Covid-19 tests.

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