COVID-19 testing lab rekindles hope to Ethiopia’s passenger flight service


The Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, Africa’s busiest airport and the continent’s leading gateway, is aspiring to revive its COVID-19-affected passenger traffic with a newly launched Chinese operated state-of-the-art COVID-19 testing lab.

The newly launched high-end COVID-19 testing lab, Huo Yan Air Lab, which is inside the premises of Ethiopia’s international flight hub, is administered by the BGI Health Ethiopia, a subsidiary of China’s biotech giant, the BGI Genomics Co., Ltd.

The Ethiopian flag carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, expects the lab, equipped with cutting-edge technologies, to inject the much-needed momentum in terms of easing the pressure through the provision of timely and accurate COVID-19 testing.

“Having this facility in the airport will enable us to facilitate the testings easily available to our passengers as well as it will enable us to do it in a faster basis to address any requirement that might have for our passengers,” Acting Chief Operating Officer of Ethiopian Airlines Retta Melaku told Xinhua in a recent interview. “We believe this facilitation and convenience will enable our passengers to develop their confidence on flying from the Addis Ababa hub at the Bole International Airport.”

According to Retta, the facility is the outcome of the excellent partnership between Ethiopia’s flag carrier and the BGI Health Ethiopia towards ensuring the safety of passengers in line with all international requirements.

With the capacity of undertaking 1,000 COVID-19 tests a day, which could be further augmented to 5,000 tests per day with further expansion, the COVID-19 testing lab is the Chinese company’s first-ever high-end laboratory in the East African region.

The facility is said to be the continuation of the company’s growing portfolio in the African continent on the backdrop of similar other cutting-edge technology laboratories operating in other African countries, such as Togo, Gabon, Angola and Botswana.

Wanyue Wang, deputy general manager of BGI Health Ethiopia, said the short-term aspiration is to ensure the continuation of flight operation between Ethiopia and other countries by managing the COVID-19 pandemic through timely and accurate screening and diagnosis.

“We are delivering the result in as short as three hours. Now, transit passenger don’t need to come out of the terminal and go back in, they can just stay inside the transit area and wait for three hours and they can get their results and continue their journey for next destination,” she said.

The newly launched facility also enabled departing passengers in Addis Ababa with an option to undertake rapid as well as regular COVID-19 testing in a very short period of time.

The facility, which was initiated with the invitation and strong support of Ethiopian Airlines and was eventually approved by the Ethiopian Public Health Institution (EPHI), will undertake COVID-19 testing for all passengers on flights to the Chinese mainland.

Independently operated by the BGI Health Ethiopia, the high-end laboratory presently provides passengers with RT-PCR and IgM antibody tests for COVID-19.

The facility is said to the first laboratory invested and operated by a Chinese company in Africa to provide international passengers with COVID-19 testing services in an airport terminal.

In September 2020, the BGI Health Ethiopia inaugurated its first-ever COVID-19 test kit factory in the African continent on the outskirts of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa.

The company is presently providing its COVID-19 test kits to public and private diagnostic centers in Ethiopia, eventually contributing to the East African country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been commended by the Ethiopian government for saving the much-needed foreign currency that the Ethiopian government would otherwise have been spending in importing test kits. Enditem

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