Caution and some congestion on day one of Abu Dhabi's 'green pass' entry rules

Some people were caught out by the new regulations

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Residents and visitors were adjusting on Friday to Abu Dhabi's new Covid-19 entry rules.

Some trying to access malls in the capital were taken by surprise by the new regulations and refused entry, while others had rushed to get inoculated before the rules came into force.

Under the measures, which apply to citizens, residents and tourists, proof of vaccination is required to visit most venues, including malls, restaurants and cafes.

Al Hosn, the UAE's testing and vaccination app, will act as the pass to secure entry.

Mona Ismail, a 34-year-old teacher from Egypt, seemed surprised when asked to present her Al Hosn app at Khalidiyah Mall in the capital.

“Oh I forgot today this kicks off,” she told the security guard, as she looked for her phone to prove her status.

“I took the vaccine in January and just took the third booster shot recently after returning from holiday,” she told The National.

“I wasn't worried about the new procedure because I get tested regularly, almost every 10 days, so I knew it wouldn't affect me.”

She said testing every 10 days was a requirement by the school where she works.

“And now I am voluntarily getting tested frequently to keep safe and responsible. The government is [making] lots of effort to keep us safe so we might as [well] play our part.”

By close to 11am, a handful of shoppers were unable to access the mall because they had either forgotten their pass or couldn't present proof of vaccination.

“Of course we expect to have some congestion at the entrance as we check everybody's pass and deny some entry, but we've had plenty of experience with those procedures over the past months,” said Mohammed Zakka, head of operations at the Khalidiyah Mall.

The shopping centre experienced a drop in footfall when the green pass was introduced in June but the system was paused before Friday's rules came into effect. Ahead of the regulations coming into force, authorities launched a widespread media campaign informing everyone of the requirements.

The UAE has delivered one of the world's fastest vaccination campaigns and has been encouraging everyone to come forward for their free shot.

Malls in the city conduct strict Covid-19 checks such as testing visitors' temperatures using thermal cameras and many also use Covid-19 face detection scanners.

“We have not received any instructions to stop using the Covid-19 face detection scan,” said Mr Zakka.

“So now any visitor has to go through three check points: the thermal scan, face scan and present the Al Hosn app.”

He said they have had a number of Covid-19 cases detected through the face scan since it was introduced a few months ago.

Basel Kurdi, who runs a balloon business at the mall, said he got his vaccine before the rules came into force.

“I was also away on holiday in Syria and waited till the last minute to get vaccinated,” said the 23-year-old.

He runs the business with his brother and said although sales had been down since the pandemic, they still felt lucky to have the business.

“We are grateful that we still have work and business is running, better than having nothing at all.”

Malls in Abu Dhabi are now allowed to operate at 80 per cent capacity as authorities cautiously ease Covid-19 regulations. And at Yas Mall things were mostly running smoothly. However, several vaccinated people were caught out by the fact they needed a PCR test to turn the Al Hosn app green.

“I don't have the green pass so they are not allowing me to go inside,” said Parminder Kaur, 33.

“I already received two doses of the vaccine in May, but the mall's security said we must also present the green pass.”

Mrs Kaur showed her grey status on the Hosn app. “I haven't taken a PCR test since end of June,” said the Indian homemaker.

“Because I don't work and I'm at home most of the time I don't need it.

“My husband has it because he has to get tested every week for work, so he can enter and I cannot.”

The couple decided to both return to their residence on Saadiyat Island. She said she will get a PCR test done the next day.

“It is holiday today and I just want to relax.”

People inside the mall were going about their business and welcomed the new rules.

Three men sat outside a cafe near the entrance after they had been let in with their green passes.

“The best thing about the green status, especially at a shopping mall, is that you feel safe,” said Amir Shazad, 32. “You know everyone around you has been vaccinated or taken a recent PCR.”

“Before I was sceptical about brining my kids to the mall, but now I feel a bit safer,” said the airline operations manager from the UK.

Updated: August 22nd 2021, 10:40 AM
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