Bangladeshi foreign travelers affected by fake Covid-19 test results

By Azad Majumder

Dhaka, July 17 (efe-epa).- Mostafazaman Bhuiyan, a migrant worker who lives and works in Italy, has been stuck at his home in Bangladesh amid the new coronavirus pandemic since February when he had returned to his native country for what was expected to be a month-long visit.

Bhuiyan, who works at a shipbuilding firm in Venice, finally managed to secure a return ticket to Italy for Aug.14 with Qatar Airways after flights resumed between Dhaka and Rome in the middle of June.

However, the Italian authorities have imposed fresh restrictions on travelers from the south Asian country after several positive cases of Covid-19 were detected on board a previous flight to Rome from Dhaka.

“I don’t know when I will be able to go back. I contacted the airlines, but they told me that they cannot give me a fresh return date until the restriction goes (away),” Bhuiyan told EFE.

Recently, Bangladesh’s private carrier US-Bangla Airlines said it has had to cancel flights to China for a week after some of its passengers were detected Covid-19 positive.

“We had five Covid-19 positive passengers on June 27, so they (the Chinese authorities) suspended flights for one week from July 6-12,” US-Bangla Airlines spokesperson Kamrul Hasan told EFE.

Hasan underlined that they had asked the passengers to conduct the Covid-19 test before flying and that four of the five passengers who tested positive had submitted a negative certificate to the airlines.

The incident becomes significant as Bangladeshi authorities have uncovered a racket where a hospital group provided fake Covid-19 test certificates without even testing the samples they collected.

The country’s elite security force, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), carried out raids and sealed off the headquarters and two hospitals of the Regent Group in Dhaka on July 7 and 8 for issuing fake test results for the novel coronavirus.

“They were supposed to collect the samples of their patients and test them through government organizations. But they did not do it,” RAB magistrate Sarwoer Alam, who led the raids, said.

“They (hospital staff) provided people with (coronavirus) reports without testing their samples,” Alam underlined.

Investigations revealed that the hospital was operating without a license and had gotten 4,264 samples duly tested through government laboratories. However, it had issued more than 6,000 fake reports without even testing.

The RAB arrested Regent group chairman Mohammad Shahed earlier this week as he was trying to flee to India after the police filed multiple charges against him and carried out raids for his arrest.

Earlier on June 24, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) also revoked the permission granted to a nonprofit, JKG Health Care, to collect samples for Covid-19 tests after its employees were found providing fake test certificates.

“We found 15 hard copies (of fake certificates) in their office and 19 hard copies in the house of their employees,” Mahmud Khan, the assistant commissioner of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told EFE.

He added that the police had confiscated four laptops from the JKG office and one of them was found to contain 1,500 certificates, all of which were consequently under verification.

The nonprofit had permission to set up 44 collection booths in Dhaka and neighboring Narayanganj to collect samples from suspected Covid-19 patients free of charge and send them to government laboratories for testing.

However, according to Khan, to make money illegally, the NGO workers visited people’s houses to collect samples for a fee and even threw away the collected samples while providing certificates showing any result preferred by the people.

“We canceled their permission when we found them carrying out this unethical practice,” DGHS deputy director Nasima Sultana told EFE, adding that they have decided to monitor the activities of all 30 licensed private labs more strictly.

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