ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lankans waiting to return to work in the UAE are stuck again after a directive imposed by UAE authorities mandated a pre-departure “rapid PCR” test taken four hours before the flight.
The UAE announced on August 03 that it will allow select inbound and transit passengers from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka Nepal, Nigeria and Uganda effective from August 05.
Currently passengers allowed to travel to the UAE are resident visa holders, medical workers, educational sector workers, students, local and federal government employees, travelers obtaining medical care in the country and people seeking humanitarian consideration.
People who fall under these categories were allowed to enter the country irrespective of their vaccination status but they must produce a PCR test obtained within 48-hours pre departure.
However a directive issued requires travellers (from the previously banned countries) to produce a rapid PCR test report obtain four hours before departure.
Emirates Airlines, the flag carrier of the UAE, said in its website, “passengers (from Sri Lanka and six other countries) must complete a COVID 19 PCR rapid test 4 hours before the departure of their flight (Rapid antigen test will not be accepted).
Passengers must also complete a COVID-19 PCR test on arrival in Dubai.
Only COVID‑19 PCR test reports from certified labs that issue a QR code linked to the original report will be accepted, Emirates added.
“Sri Lanka does not have a rapid PCR [machine], we only have MOH approved PCR and a rapid antigen test,” Shehan Sumanasekara, Director-Chief Operations (all airport) at Airport & Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) told EconomyNext.
“We are not equipped to give this service. However, we are in touch with the authorities and we are trying get rapid antigen approved.”
Sumanasekara said a lot of Sri Lankans are stranded here and are unable to return to their jobs. “This is creating a situation.”
“Worst case scenario, we will get down the rapid PCR machines but that’s going to take time.”
Rapid PCR machines are said to give out results faster than standard PCR.
According to Sumanasekara, Sri Lankan officials had first been confused if the UAE authority were asking for rapid-antigen tests because the directive had not been communicated to them before to at least make arrangements.
“The UAE officials made these measures, the four-hour rapid-PCR and 48-hour PCR test mandatory without communicating this in advance to the Sri Lankan authorities,” he said.
“We can’t get such a new testing method installed within 24 hours.”
International reports show Pakistanis too is in the same conundrum but India has set already up the rapid-PCR machines in their airports. (Colombo/Aug09/2021)