Protecting Frontline Workers and Travellers at Dhaka’s International Airport
Dhaka – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) last week (23-07) started providing health screening facilities at Dhaka’s Hazarat Shajalal International Airport (HSIA), Bangladesh’s busiest. All outbound and inbound passengers will be checked at the health screening desks operated by Ministry of Health staff.
IOM is providing technical support to the Government of Bangladesh to enhance mobility across points of entry (PoEs) in Dhaka, Chattogram, Sylhet, Akhaura, Benapole and Darshana by strengthening frontline border control and health surveillance measures.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, IOM has been advocating for the development of migrant-centred mechanisms that balance the need for mobility and containment.
The semi-permanent health screening facilities installed at the airport are scalable and fitted with protective screens to ensure that screening staff are protected when interacting with travellers and collecting passenger health declaration forms during border control operations.
The health screening desks are operating on 24/7 basis. Passengers will be screened and provided with information on symptoms identification, the importance of quarantine, when and how to seek further consultations or treatment.
Besides the installation of six health screening desks at the airport, IOM has also provided personal protective equipment (PPE), supported airport authorities to develop standard operating procedures on the management of ill travellers, supplied 300,000 health declaration forms, and trained 148 frontline staff from the Communicable Disease Control of the Directorate General of Health Services, Airport Authority, Civil Aviation, Immigration, Airlines, and Airport Police Services.
There are 28 points of entry to Bangladesh and these land, sea and air border crossing points can act as the gateway for the importation of infectious disease. To support containment measures, it is essential to identify ill travellers at points of entry to prevent further spread of COVID-19 at the community level. The identification of passengers with COVID-19 symptoms and subsequent referral for testing or quarantine will enable authorities to contain the transmission at source. The systems in place, also support authorities to prevent infected outbound passengers from exporting infection to other countries.
In line with humanitarian border management guidance, IOM proposed a combination of measures to strengthen the capacities of the Government to prevent and control the risk of spreading of the disease through PoEs. Recommended measures include the installation of health screening facilities, the collection of travel information from passengers, the provision of PPE for frontline workers, the implementation of strict sanitisation measures/protocols at PoEs, the adherence to Government guidelines on social distancing by PoE staff and travellers, and the training of all PoE personnel and staff.
“The threat to Bangladesh remains the virus, not people. We are working with the Government to ensure the safety of migrants leaving or returning to Bangladesh by supporting measures to identify travellers with symptoms as they transit through points of entry,” said Giorgi Gigauri, IOM Chief of Mission in Bangladesh.
He added, “We strengthen the response capacity of national authorities through reinforcing infrastructure, making PPE readily available to frontline workers, and by implementing responsive procedures that evolve as we learn more about how this virus is transmitted and how it can be contained.”
Besides the international airport in Dhaka, IOM has also supported authorities in Chattogram and Sylhet to incorporate health screening checks into existing airport processes. The health screening measures implemented at the airports are part of the Government initiatives to build back public confidence in air travels.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on air travel and the impact will depend on how long the pandemic lasts, what health measures are put in place on arrival and departure, and the impact of these measures on public confidence in safe air travel.
IOM estimates that there are up to 4.5 million stranded Bangladeshi migrants across the world and that there could be hundreds of thousands of migrant workers returning to Bangladesh by the end of the year.
While incoming flights to HSIA are still limited, IOM is supporting national authorities to prepare for the resumption of regular travel schedules and the resultant increase of travellers visiting the health desks.
To support government efforts at PoEs, IOM has, since March 2020, convened eight PoE task force meetings, arranged two Crisis Management Team (CMT) meetings at HSIA and donated equipment to the Communicable Disease Control Unit of the Directorate General of Health Services (CDC-DGHS) to improve data and information management, as well as facilitate communication.
IOM has also completed needs and capacity assessments of eight PoEs, donated an ambulance to Shah Amanat International Airport (SAIA) in Chattogram, donated PPE (17,000 pairs of latex gloves, 6,500 face masks, 2,000 gowns, 900 pairs of industrial cleaning gloves, 160 pairs of protective eye goggles, 100 N95 mask, 150 waste disposal bins, 13 no-contact thermometers, 3 disinfectant sprayer units, two fumigation machines and two pulse oximeters).
Additionally IOM has also supported the Government to develop two SoPs, installed health screening desks/booths at Dhaka Cantonment Railway Station and HSIA, assigned medical support staff to SAIA, supplied IEC materials (900,000 Health declaration forms, 50,000 passenger locator forms, and 100,000 other screening forms), and trained 352 frontline workers.
IOM’s support to the Government of Bangladesh at points of entry is possible through funding from the Government of Japan.