Showing Covid the red card, Unilabs style Skip to main content


24 February 2022

Showing Covid the red card, Unilabs style

Unilabs has lots of expertise with big events. We provided testing for the WebSummit Lisbon, Expo Dubai, a global cycling event in France, and various sports events in Switzerland and Slovakia. That made us the ideal partner to become the Confederation of African Football’s Covid-19 partner – responsible for testing all 1,500 players, team members, and referees at the TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations Cameroon 2021. 

When CAF appointed us as the official testing partner last December, we knew it was going to be a challenge. For a start, we have no presence in Cameroon, or even in Africa. And the whole operation had to be organised in a month flat.     

This project has been one of the most exciting – and complex – we’ve ever faced.

In less than a month, we had to organise all the logistics – with Christmas in between. It wasn't easy! For a start, the equipment distributors were late in delivering the equipment, so we had to charter a flight to bring machines from the Netherlands and Dubai to Cameroon. Fortunately, it all worked perfectly.

Then we mobilised a multidisciplinary team that organised the logistics in record time. It was brilliant seeing people from across the organisation work together to ensure the operation was a success. At Unilabs, it doesn’t matter where you are located. We are one team, and you know you can always count with colleagues from HQ and other countries to work hand on hand.

Thanks to our collective effort we managed to get our 25 trained professionals on the ground, operating mobile testing centres across Cameroon, with 70 state-of-the-art machines for rapid PCR testing. Each mobile unit had a vehicle with machines, test kits, consumables, PPE, and the necessary IT equipment to process samples and deliver results – quickly, reliably, and securely.

There were plenty of volunteers to travel to Cameroon for the tournament. The problem was not finding people capable of carrying out such a complex operation. Lots of people were capable – and everybody wanted to do it! In the end, we picked those with experience of major events, like Expo2020 Dubai, or sampling schoolkids in the Emirates.

Experience in managing large groups was vital – we knew we needed people who could work under pressure. The stakes were high. The eyes of African football fans were on us. They were counting us to be professional, fast, and fair.  

Managing the teams, supplies, and logistics was all very challenging. But we did it. The end result was amazing. We performed 7,700 tests during the five weeks we were there. And we got the chance to meet some of football's biggest stars – some even gave us signed jerseys!

Despite the pressure and the occasional hiccup – like the time one team got lost in the jungle – we loved the enthusiasm of the tournament, and the joy and hospitality of the Cameroonians.

The experience has been extraordinary at every level, and I will never forget it.

Author: Shimaa Sabri, Operations Director, Unilabs Middle East.

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