ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) has issued an apology an d a clarification on a video that circulated on social media last week of a commotion at the airport’s rapid PCR test counters.
The video showed a frustrated crowd gathered at the facility, with no social distancing between them, shouting over each other.
Shehan Sumanasekara, Director Operations Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) told EconomyNext on Tuesday (02) that the incident had occurred last Saturday (30). Passengers bound to the UAE had experienced a “period of uneasiness” as per the video, he said.
“As a responsible government institution, I would like to apologise to the passengers who went through such an ordeal, on behalf of the airport and the laboratory operator.”
In August, the BIA installed a rapid PCR laboratory on request of the UAE government when the middle eastern country made it mandatory for all passengers arriving from high-risk countries such as India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan to produce a “RAPID PCR” (different to RT-PCR and rapid antigen tests) taken four hours prior to departure.
The facility is said to be the only “rapid PCR” center in Sri Lanka and is run by Asiri Hospitals PLC.
Explaining the incident, Sumanasekara said: “There was a sudden influx of passengers flying to Dubai because of the Dubai Expo. What happened was at this particular time, there were about 700 to 800 passengers at the rapid PCR facility. “However, not a single passenger was delayed due to this.”
He added that the BIA in general has a capacity crunch, as a result of which the space allocated to this operation is also limited.
“Because of that when a lot of passengers flock together at a place, it creates some constrains. This is what happened.”
The Rapid PCR facility at the airport can handle around 350 persons per hour with the test report expected to be generated within three to four hours before the passengers departs.
“Although the report is to be given between three to four hours, a sample must be taken,” he added.
The airport has identified that the main barrier was created at the facility’s cashier counter as they have taken time to process 700 odd passengers at a given time.
As of now, the airport has expanded the cashiers and added areas for passengers to wait and collect their reports. (Colombo/Nov02/2021)