(Hello Africa) Chinese company wins acclaim for technology transfer to aid Ethiopia’s COVID-19 fight -Xinhua

Photo taken on May 4, 2022 shows Eyuel Fikru, a local team coordinator at the inflatable COVID-19 testing lab Huo-Yan Air Lab, speaking during an interview at Huo-Yan Air Lab at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, Ethiopia. (Xinhua/Michael Tewelde)

BGI Health Ethiopia, a subsidiary of China’s biotech giant, the BGI Genomics Co., Ltd., has won acclaim for its technology and knowledge transfer to boost Ethiopia’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

ADDIS ABABA, May 18 (Xinhua) — BGI Health Ethiopia, a subsidiary of China’s biotech giant, the BGI Genomics Co., Ltd., has won acclaim for its technology and knowledge transfer endeavors to propel Ethiopia’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The BGI Health Ethiopia administers Huo-Yan Air Lab inside the premises of Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, Ethiopia’s main international hub and Africa’s busiest and leading gateway.

Eyuel Fikru, one of the Ethiopian health experts working as local team coordinator at the Huo-Yan Air Lab, said the company has introduced the latest technologies and equipment to conduct COVID-19 testing and has shared good knowledge on modern COVID-19 testing technology with local health professionals.

“The equipment and the steps that we are following are really new and special. It is somehow a good way of capacity building and transfer of knowledge to the local health experts,” said Fikru in a recent interview with Xinhua.

The laboratory conducts up to 1,000 COVID-19 tests per day using a rapid detection and diagnosis technology and notifies results three hours before passengers get on board to travel to China and other parts of the world.

“The test is reliable, specific and sensitive,” said Fikru, emphasizing that the laboratory plays a significant role for Ethiopian airlines to conduct infection-free flights and help the East African nation fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Working with Chinese colleagues and the BGI as a whole is a good opportunity for Ethiopian medical practitioners since we are grabbing a lot of knowledge, especially on the machines and instruments in addition to developing good work ethics,” he said.

Photo taken on May 4, 2022 shows a biological laboratory engineer working in the inflatable COVID-19 testing lab, Huo-Yan Air Lab at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, Ethiopia. (Xinhua/Michael Tewelde)

Appreciating the sampling techniques, timing and high-quality working instruments at Huo-Yan Air Lab, Fikru said that the technology transfer is paying off to expand similar services across the country.

“After joining the BGI, I have come across sophisticated, newly emerging sample collections and get familiar with advanced technology including QPCR machines that can test 96 samples at one cycle,” he added.

On top of producing reliable COVID-19 test results, the laboratory helps the airlines carry on flights without any worries of infections on board and interruptions of flights, he said.

Kominist Asmamaw is another health expert, who works as a biological laboratory engineer at the state-of-the-art lab.

Photo taken on May 4, 2022 shows Kominist Asmamaw, a biological laboratory engineer at BGI Health Ethiopia, working in the inflatable COVID-19 testing lab, Huo-Yan Air Lab at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, Ethiopia.(Xinhua/Michael Tewelde) 

“Working with Chinese colleagues has helped me gain good experience, set up programs for all the COVID-19 testing machines and operate them independently,” said Asmamaw.

“This lab is one of the well-equipped laboratories in Ethiopia. I have never seen this kind of laboratory which is equipped with state-of-the-art automatic machines,” Asmamaw said.

BGI Health Ethiopia PLC Administration Director Saron Tamirat said the Huo-Yan Air Lab has been producing accurate and precise COVID-19 test results for passengers traveling to China.

Photo taken on May 4, 2022 shows BGI Health Ethiopia PLC Administration Director Saron Tamirat speaking during an interview at the inflatable COVID-19 testing lab, Huo-Yan Air Lab at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, Ethiopia. (Xinhua/Michael Tewelde)

“This laboratory has played a big role in COVID-19 management in Ethiopia. We produce test kits and bring them here to provide testing services which happen to be very accurate and very precise,” Tamirat told Xinhua.

Emphasizing that detection capacity is a milestone for a country to prevent and control COVID-19 infections, Tamirat said “the laboratory helped the Ethiopian airlines to have uninterrupted flights to China and other parts of the world.”

BGI Health Ethiopia also opened the first Chinese reagent factory in Ethiopia in September 2020, which has a production capacity of 6 million SARS-COV-2 RT PCR detection kits per year. The testing kits are widely used in Ethiopia and in other African countries for antigen rapid tests, particularly at airports and land entry checkpoints.

“The company is presently providing its COVID-19 test kits to the public and private diagnostic centers, eventually contributing to the East African country’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” Tamirat added. 

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