Follow the latest updates on the Covid-19 pandemic here
The number of Covid-19 tests on children is set to soar now school has started, after UAE authorities announced that weekly PCR testing will become mandatory for unvaccinated teenage children.
Parents have a month-long grace period to get their children fully vaccinated, but once that is over, even vaccinated pupils over 12 will need to be tested every month, as will schoolchildren aged between three and 12 who have not been inoculated.
Many parents fear the PCR nasal swab test is uncomfortable for their young children, but saliva tests are permitted in children aged between 3 and 16 years in the UAE, "if the collection of a normal PCR is not possible".
The saliva tests involve a throat swab, where a cotton bud on a long stick is inserted into the back of the mouth and gently rubbed against the wall of the throat.
Research shows the accuracy of saliva tests are on a par with the traditional nasal swab.
Saliva tests for children in Abu Dhabi
Saliva tests are available in G42 healthcare centres and Seha drive-through screening centres for school pupils free of charge until September 30.
Free nasal Covid-19 PCR tests are also available in all government and private screening centres.
Appointments can be made via the Seha app, or by calling 800 50.
Some private clinics contacted by The National suggested they could offer throat swab saliva tests for children, but many said they did not, including the Mediclinic customer service centre.
VPS Healthcare told The National they could only provide saliva tests if a paediatric doctor decided that a nasal PCR test was not suitable for the child. VPS owns and manages 23 hospitals and more than 125 medical centres in the UAE, including Burjeel, Lifeline and Medeor.
Saliva tests for children in Dubai
The Dubai Health Authority (DHA) approved the use of saliva tests for children in November last year.
Throat swabs are widely available at the DHA's 12 testing centres throughout the emirate, and can be booked via the DHA app, or by calling 800 342.
There are also two walk-in facilities, at Mall of the Emirates and Deira City Centre. These locations do not require appointments, and are open Sunday to Wednesday from 10am to 5pm, and from Thursday to Saturday 10am to 7pm.
Covid-19 throat swab saliva tests are also available at many private clinics, including:
Healthbay Umm Suqeim - PCR testing available on a walk-in basis from Saturday to Thursday, from 8am to 6pm.
MenaLabs Umm Suqeim - drive-through PCR testing. No appointment necessary but registration preferred.
Mediclinic Parkview Hospital, Mediclinic City Hospital and Mediclinic Welcare Hospital have drive-through facilities offering PCR testing 24/7, with no appointment necessary.
Mediclinic Dubai Mall - PCR Testing, appointments only. Available Saturday to Thursday from 9am to 6pm and Friday from 12pm to 5pm.
Mediclinic Al Sufouh, Mediclinic Arabian Ranches and Mediclinic Meadows offer PCR testing – appointments only. Available weekdays and Saturday, 8am to 7pm and on Fridays 8am to 4pm.
Mediclinic Ibn Battuta - PCR testing – appointments only. Available weekdays and Saturdays, 8am to 7pm and on Fridays 12pm to 7pm.
Mediclinic Mirdif - Walk-in only for PCR testing between 8.30am to 8pm from Saturday to Thursday and Friday from 3.30pm to 7pm.
Mediclinic Al Qusais - Walk-in only for PCR testing between 8am to 7pm from Saturday to Thursday and from 10am to 4pm on Fridays.
Mediclinic Deira - Walk-in only for PCR testing between 9am and 7pm from Saturday to Thursday. Advance booking can be done for groups on Friday from 2pm to 6pm.
Mediclinic Springs - PCR testing – appointments only. Available weekdays and Saturday, 8am to 7pm. No PCR testing on Fridays.