Zanzibar launches Covid-19 rapid screening services

Thursday February 17 2022
An official screens a traveller for Covid-19 at the Zanzibar airport.

An official screens a traveller for Covid-19 at the Zanzibar airport. PHOTO | BEATRICE MATERU | NMG


With a growing number of Covid cases worldwide and the need to safeguard Zanzibar as an ideal and safe tourism destination, the archipelago on Wednesday launched Covid-19 rapid screening for all visitors.

“It is an integrated screening/testing program which works to ease travel restrictions and make the lives of those flying affordable,” said Nassor Ahmed Mazrui, Zanzibar’s minister for Health.

Up until recently, Zanzibar only carried out the Covid-19 rapid test and administered vaccinations to protect its population.

A negative result following a Covid-19 screening at the Zanzibar airport.

A negative result following a Covid-19 screening at the Zanzibar airport. PHOTO | BEATRICE MATERU | NMG

But with the rapid screening, which is done prior to the Covid-19 test, the island will be more prepared to deal with coronavirus cases and be able to quickly map out people at risk.

Quick screening


On Wednesday, Zanzibar’s Health ministry launched a bimolecular technology Covid-19 screening at the Abeid Amani Karume International Airport.

“The vital concern of the Ministry of Health is to see that Zanzibar is safe; a safe place for people, including tourists, to come and enjoy. So we have adopted a number of activities that are available in the world to make sure all persons coming to Zanzibar also come in a safer way,” said Mazrui.

The EastAfrican learnt that the island began conducting trial runs last month.

For the rapid screening, an official will scan the traveller by pointing his/her smartphone's camera at the traveller, and the electronic magnetic waves emitted from the body will be transmitted to the phone, which will then give feedback on whether the person has Covid-related symptoms.

If the result is negative, the result on the smartphone reads, "NEGATIVE (-). The presence of Covid-19 viral nucleotides was not detected."

Depending on the results of the screening, the traveller proceeds for mandatory testing and vaccination where need be.

The electromagnetic detector is able to measure waves within a five-metre radius through a mobile phone.

“When a person on arrival comes, our health personnel will hold a phone with the EDE technology at a one- to five-metre distance to test for Covid-19,” clarified Mohammad Gulrez, project manager.

Dr Gulrez explained that the scanner measures electromagnetic waves, which change when the ribonucleic acid (RNA) particles of the virus are present in a person’s body and provide results in seconds.

“Covid-19 test through a mobile phone!” exclaimed a tourist from Dubai at airport on Wednesday morning, happy that the screening is fast.

The screening was done free of charge on Wednesday.

Adopted from UAE

The screening, adopted from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), will ease travel requirements and avoid double testing.

A person travelling from Zanzibar to Dubai who has been screened and tested in Zanzibar will not have to go through the same steps on arrival in the UAE, the minister said.

Zanzibar has entered into an agreement with a UAE-based Sanimed and a local public health organisation, Alfa Care, to offer the screening to international travellers at the Zanzibar airport.

Dadkarim Mulla, Alfa Care’s Managing Director, told The EastAfrican that the costs of developing the programme in the Emirates reached about $1 billion while the Zanzibar programme has a budget of about $2 million, which include training of staff, equipment purchase and establishment of a laboratory.

According to Alfa Care, the new Covid-19 screening will soon be implemented in mainland Tanzania at the Julius Nyerere International and Kilimanjaro International airports.