In view of diagnosing the COVID-19 affected passengers travelling to and from Sri Lanka, a PCR test laboratory is slated to be established at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in the next few weeks.
The special laboratory will be set up by the Airport & Aviation Services Limited (AASL) in collaboration with a German-based parent company on a 1.7 acre plot of land with dedicated parking facilities.
A senior AASL official said that the laboratory would be equipped to conduct 6900 PCR tests per day or approximately 500 PCR tests per hour.
With over 3500 sqft, the laboratory will consist of an HVAC system in keeping with the highest international standards, the official said, adding that it will also be a purpose-built laboratory equipped with the latest technology.
A fully air-conditioned marquee with a seating capacity of 500 passengers at any given time will also be set up according to health guidelines stipulated by the Health Ministry.
Passengers arriving at the swabbing area will be separated from the main waiting area and will also have separate air conditioning facilities in keeping with health regulations.
The laboratory is capable of providing test reports of all passengers arriving at the airport in less than 3 hours after collecting the respective samples.
Furthermore, this will also allow the passengers to know their PCR test results by the time they arrive at their hotels.
"With the above facility, a passenger arriving in Sri Lanka will go through the swabbing area, and after the PCR swab test, he will continue his travel to the respective hotel and the report will be made available within 3 hours so that the hotels receiving the passengers will have a clear indication of the status of the passenger unlike the present situation, thereby mitigating the risk of a possible spread," the AASL said.
With Sri Lanka looking to fully reopen its borders, a senior official of the Ministry of Tourism said that this will enable Sri Lanka to earn much needed foreign exchange with the arrival of more tourists into the island.
The AASL will charge USD 40 per passenger which is the same amount currently charged by the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA). However, the German company will only be paid USD 32 with the balance USD 8 going to government coffers.
The Ministry of Tourism is optimistic that this project will be able to garner foreign exchange into the country.
While the project is expected to be operational in two years, the German-based parent company has already agreed to hand over the laboratory to the government after two years.
As the government is looking to revive the pandemic-hit tourism industry through the implementation of new tourism friendly strategies to bring in more tourists to the country, the new state-of-the-art laboratory to be set up at the BIA with the aim of providing PCR test results within three hours will help to promote Sri Lanka's airports globally.
"Not only will this project generate more than 100 new employment opportunities but will be of great benefit to companies dealing with Sri Lanka in other aviation sectors, including international airlines," a spokesperson for the Tourism Ministry said, adding that the AASL must be commended for thinking outside the box for implementing such a project.