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The UAE remains on course for recovery from the pandemic after coronavirus testing requirements to enter Abu Dhabi from other emirates were lifted.
Motorists enjoyed a clear path to the capital on Sunday as a police checkpoint between Abu Dhabi to Dubai was removed.
Drivers used to stopping at the Ghantoot border to present proof of their virus-free status on Al Hosn, the Covid-19 testing app, were relieved to be able to plot a smooth course for Abu Dhabi without planning PCR tests in advance.
Officials announced on Saturday that the screening protocol would be removed after a welcome fall in infection rates in the capital.
As of last week, only 0.2 per cent of people tested were found to have the coronavirus.
The decision is a major boost for commuters who live in other emirates but work in Abu Dhabi, many of whom have taken dozens of PCR tests to make the commute over the past 14 months.
“I think I’ve had about 43 PCR tests at this stage just to get to Abu Dhabi,” said Dubai resident Stuart Forrester, 46, who works in the oil and gas industry.
“It’s also great that I can now go at the drop of a hat to Abu Dhabi for work and not have to plan it well in advance.”
Mr Forrester, from the UK, said he regularly had to structure his week around PCR-testing rules, which often meant having to stay in the UAE capital for several days.
“Now there is a lot more freedom, which will give me more flexibility about being able to meet people for work,” he said.
“If I travelled to Abu Dhabi and underwent a PCR test, it pretty much guaranteed I would be staying for a few days because you couldn’t be sure if the rules would change before you had the chance to come back.”
An Abu Dhabi resident who makes regular visits to her parents in Dubai also welcomed the move.
“It’s good news because it means there will be no restrictions on my parents coming to visit me in Abu Dhabi now,” said Nahdi Khan, 27, from India.
“It will also save money for people who don’t have to pay any more for PCR tests every time they want to go to Abu Dhabi, which can be quite expensive if you’re travelling regularly.”
Since July 2, 2020, anyone driving into Abu Dhabi has had to show police at the border proof of a recent PCR test.
Testing and immunisation drive key to success
An intensive testing programme and a rapid vaccination drive – allied to the public’s support of existing safety measures such as the wearing of masks – has buoyed confidence in national efforts to overcome the virus.
More than 19.4 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered to the public to date, with more than 81 per cent of the population now fully vaccinated.
The UAE has carried out about 80.7 million PCR tests, with daily testing rates regularly exceeding 300,000.
On Sunday, daily infections fell to 391, the lowest number recorded since August 30, 2020.
The daily caseload peaked at nearly 4,000 in early February.
As offices welcome back workers in large numbers, pupils fill classrooms and travel restrictions continue to ease, cautious but important strides back to normality are being made.
Green pass rules still in place
Although people entering Abu Dhabi from Dubai no longer need to show a test result, they are still required to have the “green status” on Al Hosn to enter many public places.
Security staff at public buildings, malls and restaurants will check that those entering have a green pass.
The status of people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 will remain green as long as they have a PCR test once every 30 days.
Those who have received both doses of the Sinopharm vaccine six months ago must take a booster shot to maintain their green status.
A grace period of 30 days is given to all those who had their second dose more than six months ago, before their status will turn grey on September 20.
Those with grey status – which also covers those who are unvaccinated or took a PCR test more than 30 days ago – are prohibited from entering the previously set out list of public places.
This immunised-only list is made up of all shops, malls, restaurants, cafes, gyms, recreational and sports centres and health clubs.
Resorts, museums, cultural centres and theme parks, plus universities, institutes, public and private schools and children’s nurseries, also appear on the list.