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Etihad Airways Gets Cargo Boost Transporting Used COVID-19 Tests That Need Processing

Etihad Airways Gets Cargo Boost Transporting Used COVID-19 Tests That Need Processing

Etihad Airways is getting a welcome boost to its finances by helping to transport used COVID-19 tests that are in need of processing in specialist labs. The Abu Dhabi-based airline is flying in between 5,000 and 10,000 used throat and nasal swabs every day from countries that lack lab capacity so that they can be processed and analysed in labs in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Since the start of the pandemic, the UAE has carried out around 29 million COVID-19 tests on a local population of just 9.8 million people – placing the small Persian Gulf country near the top of nations with the highest rates of testing.

Photo Credit: Mufid Majnun via Unsplash

The UAE was able to quickly scale up lab capacity to carry out polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing to detect COVID-19 – a process that requires expensive and specialist machinery that some countries still lack. Etihad did not, however, say which countries it was bringing in the used tests from.

On arrival in Abu Dhabi, the emirate’s Department of Health says tests from “multiple countries” can be turned around and results sent back in less than 24-hours. Department of Health chairman Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Hamed reassured potential customers that lab testing in the UAE met the “highest international quality standards”.

In January, Denmark raised concerns about the quality and accuracy of PCR testing in the country saying there were “suspected irregularities” with some tests carried out in the UAE. It later emerged that Danish lawmakers were concerned that some travellers were obtaining “fraudulent” test results to enable them to travel.

The UAE had rejected any suggestion that lab testing did not meet international standards and had demanded further information from their Danish counterparts.

As well as transporting used COVID-19 tests, Etihad has also been helping to transport ready to be used rapid antigen tests from suppliers in China and South Korea. The 15-minute tests that look similar to pharmacy bought pregnancy tests could prove to be a gamechanger in allowing international travel and mass spectator events to restart as the pandemic is brought under control.

As part of the Hope Consortium, the airline has also committed to helping to transport 18 billion doses of vaccine throughout 2021. Etihad recently announced that all operational pilots and cabin crew have already been vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus using the Chinese manufactured Sinopharm shot.

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