Maldives, Qatar halt entry of Bangladeshis

Biman Bangladesh Airlines has cut their flights on 10 routes to 50 per cent as a preventive measure against the coronavirus (COVID-19) spread worldwide while Qatar has suspended direct entry from 14 countries, including Bangladesh, affecting labour migration.

Qatar’s decision came a week after the Kuwaiti decision of suspending flights to and from Bangladesh, among other countries.

‘This decision comes as a preventive measure due to the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) worldwide. It affects all individuals intending to enter from these countries, including visas upon arrival, those with a residence or work permit, and temporary visitors,’ the Qatar Airways said in a statement.

‘In relation to passengers travelling from Italy, only those with onward connections through Hamad International Airport are accepted for travel,’ the statement said.

It added, ‘Qatari nationals and those who are in possession of a Qatar Residency Permit are exempted from this decision. However, these passengers will be asked to stay in a quarantine facility for 14 days as per the World Health Organization’s measures.’

Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport director Group Captain AHM Touhid-ul Ahsan said that any Bangladeshi passenger destined to any country other than Qatar could fly via Doha and the latest flight took off at about 5:00pm on Monday.

Biman managing director and chief executive officer Md Mokabbir Hossain said that the airline dropped half of their flights on 10 routes while suspending all of their Doha-bound flights until further notice.

The national flag carrier used to operate 142 flights on the 10 routes—to and from Kuala Lumpur, Kathmandu, Kolkata, Delhi, Bangkok, Singapore, Doha, Jeddah, Medina and Kuwait—weekly while now they were operating 68 flights a week due to the coronavirus spread.

‘If passengers want, they will get the refund,’ said the Biman CEO, adding that there was no such impact on the domestic routes.

At least three people were found infected with the COVID-19 virus in Bangladesh, according to officials on Sunday.

Several hundreds of Bangladeshi workers who were scheduled to fly to Qatar were stuck in Dhaka due to the flight suspension imposed by the country.

Recruiting Agencies Unity Council president M Tipu Sultan told New Age that there were several hundreds of workers who could not fly on Sunday due to the restrictions imposed by Qatar.

The workers who came to Bangladesh on leave would also not be able to go to Qatar shortly, he said.

Tipu Sultan also said that manpower recruitment from Bangladesh was affected by the spread of coronavirus as Kuwait and Qatar already stopped entries.

Other destination countries are in the process of slapping restrictions on the movement of workers from Bangladesh, he apprehended, adding that overseas jobs started to decline.

According to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training, Qatar has been recruiting workers from Bangladesh since 1976.

Over four lakh Bangladeshis are currently working in Qatar, BMET officials said.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Maldives on Monday announced that they would not allow the passengers and crew travelling from Bangladesh, China, Iran, South Korea and Italy to enter the country or to transit via their airports.

In a circular, the Maldives aviation authorities said that the decision was taken to minimise the risk of the spread of the novel virus to the island country.

The ban on the travellers from Bangladesh is effective from March 10 to 24.

However, the Maldives nationals and their spouses would be permitted entry to the country.

Bangladesh flight operators do not operate direct flight to that country though Bangladeshis have been working there for a long time.

Local and international flight operators in Dhaka said that the passenger load factor had seen a drastic fall for international destinations like Italy, Singapore, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, among others, since February.

More than 3,500 people have died in China and some other affected countries and over 1,00,000 have been infected so far since its outbreak in China late December. (Source: New Age)

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