planned to introduce antigen testing at all airports of the country from January 13 to screen travellers for Covid-19, but the initiative has so far failed to get off the ground.
Several countries around the world, including the UK, have already begun antigen testing at airports as a faster and cheaper alternative to RT-PCR tests. An RT-PCR test can take up to eight hours, while antigen tests usually give results in under an hour.
Not all countries accept antigen tests as they are less accurate than RT-PCR tests, but they still offer an excellent way to screen incoming travellers and reduce the risk of airports becoming Covid hotspots, experts have said.
However, airport authorities and government officials claim inadequate manpower and space make the initiative unfeasible.
Of the major airports of the country, only Sylhet MAG Osmani International Airport is currently conducting antigen tests at any level.
No space or manpower
Sylhet Deputy Civil Surgeon Dr Jonmo Joy Datta told Dhaka Tribune the authorities began antigen testing at the airport on a limited scale from January 3. They conduct an average of 25 antigen tests each day.
“It is not possible to fully implement antigen testing at Sylhet airport due to a lack of adequate facilities. We do not have space for the people waiting for results, or enough health officials to test all the passengers,” he said.
Officials at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka said around 20,000 passengers travel through the airport every day.
“How is it possible to test such a large number of incoming passengers when there is a space crisis in the airport?” said Dr Shahriar Sajjad, assistant director of the airport’s Health Office.
“Even if there was enough space, we would have to increase the number of health officials at the airport to more than the 100 currently deployed there. We would also have to ensure sufficient supply of testing kits,” he added.
The airport authorities raised the issue of inadequate manpower to conduct the tests during a meeting with the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) on January 23, according to Civ