Ethiopia opens facility to make coronavirus test kits

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA (AP) — Ethiopia has opened a facility to produce kits to test for the coronavirus and said its researchers are working to develop and test a vaccine.

The company producing the testing kits is a joint venture with a Chinese company, called BGI Health Ethiopia.

Ethiopia’s number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has risen to nearly 64,000 causing almost 1,000 deaths, according to government figures. On Sunday, Ethiopia also opened a field hospital to hold up to 200 severely affected COVID-19 patients, which will start admitting patients immediately.

Ethiopia has conducted over 1.1 million tests, making it the African country that has carried out the third-highest number of tests, according to Ethiopian health officials. The country is struggling with a shortage of testing kits, ventilators, and intensive care beds, they said.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said during the factory’s opening on Sunday that the lab will produce 10 million testing kits per year, which will be used in the country and exported, with priority given to other African countries.

“The factory will also provide commercial laboratory services for a total of three million transit passengers at Bole International Airport and in Addis Ababa city,” the Prime Minister stated, adding this will boost the testing capacity of Ethiopia and other African countries.

“After the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, the manufacturing centre will switch to the production of other types of nucleic acid detection reagents, such as AIDS testing kits, tuberculosis nucleic acid test kits, and other locally needed RT PCR test kit products,” Abiy said.

Abiy also announced that Ethiopian researchers have been working to develop a vaccine, which is now entering a laboratory trial stage.

The local production of the testing kits will have a “huge impact” in boosting Ethiopia’s ability to combat the disease, Ethiopia’s main COVID-19 treatment centre in Addis Ababa Head Yared Agidew told The Associated Press (AP).

“By conducting more tests, we will be able to identify positive cases in the community and take appropriate measures to control the spread,” he said.

Ethiopia’s Health Minister Lia Tadesse said community transmissions are the main cause of the increasing cases.