Malls in Abu Dhabi have hired extra security guards and given staff training to ensure smooth entry for customers, after new Covid-19 rules came into force this weekend.
Under these, citizens, residents and tourists must provide proof of vaccination plus a negative PCR test conducted within the previous 30 days to visit most public venues, including malls, restaurants and cafes.
Those who have been vaccinated and had a PCR test within the time frame show “green status” on the UAE's testing and vaccination app, Al Hosn. This is used as an entry pass.
Children aged 15 and under are exempt.
Parents are required to store their children’s data as well as their own, unless they have teenagers with separate smartphones.
Mayank M Pal, general manager at Khalidiyah Mall in Abu Dhabi, said the first day went well because most people were aware of the entry requirements.
He said he employed 11 additional staff to work on Friday to ensure there would be enough people to check visitors’ Al Hosn status.
Of the 14,800 people who went to Khalidiyah Mall on Friday, only about 15 were denied entry for not having the green pass.
“Authorities have been announcing rules for quite some time, so I would say 95 per cent of the people knew these,” Mr Pal said.
“There were still 10 to 15 people we had to send back as they were vaccinated but had not done their PCR tests.
“We deployed extra security at the entrances, whose job was to check Al Hosn apps.”
Mr Pal said the mall had shared information about the new rules on social media for a week and had put up explanatory stickers.
Yasser Al Marzouqi, director of retail property management at Aldar Estates, which operates Yas Mall, said it was ready for the change, but owing to the new protocol, some customers, including tourists, had been unable to enter.
“We provided separate lanes for different categories, such as families, women and people with special needs, and separate desks for people having issues in their Al Hosn app,” he said.
“Our security staff have been trained to quickly look at the Al Hosn app, and to handle different scenarios to ensure smooth access.
“Extra security staff have been provided in addition to well-trained volunteers.”
How the rules affect children
Parents can show their children’s profile on Al Hosn app or their Emirates IDs to gain entry to malls and other public places.
Caroline Waddington, 44, a British mother of two in Abu Dhabi, said she went to Al Forsan Central Mall on Friday but did not face any hurdles.
Mrs Waddington and her husband, Chris, have each taken both doses of the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine and a booster shot of Pfizer-BioNTech.
Their daughter, Sophie, 14, has had both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and their son Alex, 11, is waiting for his first shot of Sinopharm.
“It was all very streamlined and straightforward. I had to show my Al Hosn app to get in and they asked to see information on Sophie, but not for Alex, as he is only 11,” she said.
“We also had the scan check at the entrance to Lulu.”
Malls in Abu Dhabi are now allowed to operate at 80 per cent capacity.
Staff at entry points conduct strict Covid-19 checks, such as testing visitors’ temperatures using thermal cameras, and many also use Covid-19 face detection scanners.
Sonika Jain, from India, went to World Trade Centre Mall in Abu Dhabi on Friday with her children, aged 16 and 14.
Her son, who is 16, received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Saturday.
She said she had shown her children’s Emirates ID cards and they were allowed in.
“I did not face any issues,” said Ms Jain, who works for a bank.
“People are aware of the rules by now, and know what they have to do.”