The government has decided to suspend the flight operation of airlines that will carry passengers without Covid-19 negative certificates as part of its initiative to curb the spread of coronavirus.
Chairman of Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman told journalist that they have asked all airlines to refrain from carrying Covid-19 patients but six coronavirus patients were found boarding the Biman Bangladesh Airlines from Saudi Arabia on Saturday.
Biman has been fined Tk 30,000 (Tk 5,000 for each passenger). Besides, Air Asia has been fined Tk 1 lakh, he said.
“We’re slapping small fines but have taken tough decisions. If any airline is found carrying Covid-19 patients, the flight operation will be suspended for a day or two or a week or for an even longer period,” the CAAB Chairman said.
Mentioning that carrying Covid-19 patients is harmful to the country, Mafidur said: “It’ll be a sheer violation of law apart from tarnishing our image at the global stage.
“We won’t tolerate it. No airlines will be allowed to carry passengers who don’t have coronavirus negative certificates. We’ve taken a rigid stance [on the issue].”
Mobile court drives are being conducted at the airport and each passenger is being checked. Nobody is being allowed in the country without having Covid-19 negative certificates, he said.
Bangladesh, which reported its first coronavirus cases on March 8, has so far recorded 490,533 cases till Sunday with 7,052 deaths. The mortality rate stands at 1.44 percent.
Globally, more than 72 million Covid-19 cases with over 1.61 million fatalities have been recorded since December last year, according to the Johns Hopkins University.
The government has long been warning of a second-wave of infection. It has intensified up awareness campaigns and urging people to follow health guidelines.
Despite the government’s restriction, national flag carrier Biman Bangladesh Airlines carried passengers without Covid-19 negative certificate, said Mafidur.
“Only Biman and Air Asia have been accused of carrying passengers of without negative certificates. Foreign airlines are very strict in this matter. We wonder how the people who flew from abroad without negative certificates, boarded the flights,” he said.
Dr Shahrier Sazzad, chief health officer of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, said a total of 52 Covid-19 patients have come to the country till December 12 and the number of such patients also increased till today.
“Nearly 60 coronavirus patients have entered the country and most of them are workers,” he said.
Negligence at airport
He said the people who were found infected with Covid-19 were passengers of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, Air Asia, Saudi Airlines and Qatar Airlines.
“We’ve sent letters to the airlines asking the authorities concerned to refrain from carrying Covid-19 patients but they didn’t pay heed to our call. Later, we informed CAAB about it which conducted mobile court drives at the airport,” he said.
Noting that about 5,000-6,000 passengers from different countries use the airport every day, Dr Shahrier said many passengers are now at risk of getting infected because of the negligence of the airlines’ authorities.
On Sunday, the mobile court fined Malaysia-based airline Air Asia Tk 1 lakh for bringing a Covid-19 positive passenger at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport that landed around 11:56pm on Saturday.
Executive Magistrate Ahmed Jamil who operated the mobile court said the Covid-19 positive passenger is a migrant worker who was sent to hospital.
The worker did not know that he was Covid-19 positive but later came to know about it after conversing with other passengers.
He had taken the Covid positive certificate from a laboratory in Malaysia but could not read the report.
Besides, no-one checked his certificate during the immigration at Kuala Lumpur or before boarding the flight.