Acting Chief Operating Officer of Ethiopian Airlines Retta Melaku speaks during an interview with Xinhua at the newly launched high-end COVID-19 testing lab, Huo Yan Air Lab, at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, Ethiopia, on April 16, 2021. 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 and state-of-the-art COVID-19 testing lab. The Huo Yan Air Lab, located inside the premises of Ethiopia’s international flight hub, is administered by BGI Health Ethiopia, a subsidiary of China’s biotech giant, BGI Genomics Co Ltd. [Photo/Xinhua]

ADDIS ABABA — 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 and state-of-the-art COVID-19 testing lab.

The Huo Yan Air Lab, located inside the premises of Ethiopia’s international flight hub, is administered by BGI Health Ethiopia, a subsidiary of China’s biotech giant, BGI Genomics Co Ltd.

The Ethiopian flag carrier, Ethiopian Airlines, expects the lab to inject much-needed momentum to ease pressure through timely and accurate COVID-19 testing.

“Having this facility in the airport will allow us to make testing easily available to our passengers,” Acting Chief Operating Officer of Ethiopian Airlines, Retta Melaku, told Xinhua in a recent interview. “We believe this convenience will enable our passengers to fly with more confidence from the Addis Ababa hub at the Bole International Airport.”

According to Retta, the progress is the outcome of an excellent partnership between Ethiopia’s flag carrier and 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 expanded to 5,000 tests per day, 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 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 results in as fast as three hours,” she said. “Now, transit passengers don’t need to leave the terminal and go back in, they can just stay inside the transit area and wait to get their results and continue their journey to the next destination.”

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 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 provides passengers with RT-PCR and IgM antibody tests for COVID-19.

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

In September 2020, 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 providing its COVID-19 test kits to public and private diagnostic centers in Ethiopia, which will contribute to the East African country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.