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Dhaka Tribune

Foreign minister: All foreigners to be allowed to leave on chartered flights

US nationals, including diplomats, leave Dhaka by chartered flight Monday

Update : 29 Mar 2020, 07:09 PM

Foreign nationals living in Bangladesh will be allowed to leave the country on chartered flights, as commercial flights have been suspended to tackle the global Covid-19 pandemic, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said on Sunday.

“We have suspended almost all commercial flights to and from Bangladesh to stop the spread of coronavirus. Under the prevailing situation, foreigners who are still in Bangladesh can leave the country on chartered flights. Permission will be granted for such flights,” the minister told this correspondent.

Meanwhile, US citizens residing in Bangladesh, including diplomats, will leave for Washington DC on a chartered flight of Qatar Airways on Monday.

Those who are leaving are doing so voluntarily and in accordance with the health advisory issued by the US Department of State on March 19, asking citizens to return home immediately, two officials of the US embassy in Dhaka said.

This is not unique to Bangladesh, as about 10,000 US citizens having been repatriated from 28 countries across the world, so far, the embassy officials said in a video background briefing on Sunday.

The officials would not disclose how many such flights have been arranged or how many people are flying on Monday.

“The flight (on Monday) will be full,” said an official.

Asked about the reasons for moving from Bangladesh, one of the least-infected countries, to the US, the most-infected country in the world, another official said that it is the personal choice of the individuals.

The US embassy will remain open, but visa processing shall remain suspended with the exception of emergency cases, the officials said.

British nationals are also trying to return home as per the travel advice by their government.  

On March 27, the government and Biman Bangladesh Airlines announced the suspension of flights between the UK and Bangladesh. However, they also announced that the flights are planned to resume on April 7.

“If you are booked on those flights or you are a British citizen considering your options, I urge you now to do two things,” British High Commissioner in Bangladesh Robert Chatterton Dickson said in a video message on Saturday.

“The first is to get in urgent touch with Biman or your travel agent, and make sure that if you were booked on those flights, you can be rebooked on those flights beginning again on April 7. The second thing I urge you to do is to stay in very close touch with the travel advice, which we update every day here in the High Commission,” he said.

Apart from essential staff at various diplomatic missions, nationals of other countries, including from the European nations, have already left or are trying to leave the country as soon as possible.

Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, several diplomats, especially from the west, have expressed concerns about the ability of the healthcare system in Bangladesh in case the number of affected people increases “alarmingly.”

Regarding the repatriation of British citizens from Bangladesh, the foreign minister said: “I advised them either to charter flights or to introduce flights to Bangladesh by British Airways.”

On the lack of confidence among foreigners in the country’s healthcare system, the minister said: “It is psychological, but I can understand. There remains a fear that they will not get the treatment they are used to getting in their own countries.

“Having said this, I can assure that we will try our best to provide healthcare to every foreign national,” Dr AK Abdul Momen added.

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