Cotonou — Benin has set up a COVID-19 testing centre at the main airport in the capital Cotonou to boost early detection and containment of the virus. Unlike many countries in the region, Benin's airspace has remained open since the outbreak began. Land borders were shut, however.
Arriving passengers are systematically tested in one of the 20 booths using a rapid diagnostic as well as polymerase chain reaction test. The rapid testing shows results after 15 to 20 minutes. Those who test positive from the rapid test receive counselling and later medical attention at home if they are asymptomatic. If they show symptoms they are taken to treatment centres.
Those who test negative from the rapid test are allowed to go home but must return 48 hours later for results from the polymerase chain reaction test. Anyone testing positive from this test is taken for treatment, while those having negative results self-quarantine at home and undergo a second testing after 15 days.
Initially, all arriving passengers were quarantined at hotels for two weeks and received medical attention, including psychological help.
Benin has in recent weeks embarked on systematic testing of people at risk of COVID-19 such as arriving air travellers, health workers and teachers. As of 25 May, more than 14 000 polymerase chain reaction tests had been carried out in the 83 triage and testing sites across the country, including from the airport.
"We are now trying to return to normalcy. That's why the government has revised the measures put in place for passengers arriving through land and air borders," said Benjamin Hounkpatin, the Minister of Health.
In April 2020, the World Health Organization and partners delivered a shipment of medical supplies and equipment to Benin, among other African countries, to bolster response to COVID-19 which has now spread to all the countries in the continent. The shipment, also made possible through collaboration with World Food Programme and the Jack Ma Foundation, strengthened Benin's health system with diagnostic kits, personal protective equipment and respirators.
In addition to enhanced COVID-19 testing, Benin is also ensuring observance of preventive measures including mandatory wearing of masks in public, setting up handwashing stations and limiting the number of passengers in public transport. Bars, churches and large gatherings remain banned.
The airport testing centre recently facilitated the safe repatriation of 35 Beninese who were stranded abroad. Several other nationals are expected to return home soon, with the airport testing centre helping to keep them and others safe and stem the spread of the virus.