UAE Explained: How Abu Dhabi's new Covid-19 scanners work

The devices measure electromagnetic waves to determine if someone is infected with the virus

Abu Dhabi recently introduced a new Covid-19 screening method in shopping malls, some residential areas and at all land and air entry points.

The devices measure electromagnetic waves.

But what are they? And how do the scanners detect Covid-19?

The National explains.

What are electromagnetic waves?

They are waves created by vibrations between an electric field and a magnetic field.

All objects emit electromagnetic radiation, which is measured in waves – including people.

Most of the radiation emitted by the human body is infrared.

Ear and forehead thermometers check body temperatures by detecting infrared radiation emitted by human bodies, as warmer objects emit more thermal radiation than cooler ones.

Infrared cameras detect body temperatures in the same way.

According to Nasa, electromagnetic waves have crests and troughs similar to those of ocean waves.

“The distance between crests is the wavelength. The shortest wavelengths are just fractions of the size of an atom, while the longest wavelengths scientists currently study can be larger than the diameter of our planet.”

How do the scanners work?

According to Abu Dhabi Media Office, the device uses an electromagnetic detector, which measures waves within a five metre radius.

When a person enters the area, they alter the electromagnetic waves present.

The scanner measures these waves, “which change when the [ribonucleic acid RNA] particles of the virus are present in the person’s body”, the media office said.

RNA typically acts as a messenger carrying instructions from DNA.

A machine learning algorithm compares the information against the Covid-19 RNA molecule.

What does it mean if a person is positive?

They may have Covid-19 and must report for a PCR test within 24 hours.

They will also be refused entry to locations such as malls.

The scanners are now used at shopping malls, some residential areas, and all land and air entry points.

How accurate are the scanners?

Very, according to a trial involving 20,000 people, which showed “a high degree of effectiveness.”

The devices were trialled in Ghantoot, Yas Island and Mussaffah.

Jamal Al Kaabi, undersecretary at the Department of Health in Abu Dhabi, said the use of the scanners underlined the emirate's commitment to protecting public health.

“Abu Dhabi has adopted an integrated strategy to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, based on increased testing to ensure safe entry into the emirate, vaccination and the continued implementation of precautionary measures,” he said.

Dr Al Kaabi added the scanners would be used alongside other screening methods such as PCR testing.

The system was developed by the EDE Research Institute Abu Dhabi.

Updated: July 1st 2021, 4:53 AM