Coronavirus: Motorists queue for hours at Covid-19 testing centre in Dubai

Centres have extended opening hours to cope with surge in demand caused by mandatory testing to enter Abu Dhabi

Motorists had to wait more than two hours at a Covid-19 screening centre in Dubai on Thursday after demand for tests at the facility doubled over the past week.

The drive-through testing centres, managed by Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, Seha, have seen a sharp increase in the number of bookings after it was announced that people could only enter Abu Dhabi if they could present a negative Covid-19 test.

On Wednesday, Seha said the facilities would extend their opening hours until 8pm each night, and are now open seven days a week, in an attempt to cope with the extra demand.

“Most of the people we are seeing each day are looking to travel to Abu Dhabi or outside of the country,” said Dr Mohanna Hasan, who is managing the testing centre at Mina Rashed in Dubai.

Most of the people we are seeing each day are looking to travel to Abu Dhabi

Dr Mohanna Hasan

“Before the announcement about Abu Dhabi we were seeing about 500 people a day, now we are at full capacity which is 1,200 people.

“Most people just want to get back to work in Abu Dhabi and need the certificate.”

The increased need for testing was further exacerbated by an announcement that all public sector employees must begin working from their offices from Sunday, which has left many people needing the certificate.

A negative coronavirus test, taken within the previous 48 hours, must be presented at the Abu Dhabi border to enter.

The test costs Dh370 and takes little more than a few minutes to undergo, Dr Hasan said.

Testing is free for pregnant women, people with chronic diseases, the disabled and anyone over the age of 50. It is also free for anyone who has come into contact with someone who has the virus and those who are presenting symptoms of Covid-19.

“We are telling patients they will get their results within 48-72 hours and we are doing our very best to get the results back to them as quickly as possible,” he said.

“Even though it’s been a lot busier, we are coping very well as we have a lot of volunteers and outsourced staff.

“While most people want the certificate to be allowed to get to Abu Dhabi, there are also a lot of people who need it to return to their home countries.”

He said the centres were working closely with embassies who were sending through lists of people who needed to be tested before taking a repatriation flight home.

Residents are advised to book in advance even though the centres are taking “walk-ins”.

Among those being tested at the centre on Thursday afternoon was police officer Fahad Mustafa, 37.

“I have not been able to get to Abu Dhabi for more than a week,” he said.

“I need to get this if I want to be able to get back to work.”

Over at the testing centre in City Walk, motorists were waiting in their vehicles for more than two hours to be seen.

The centre’s manager Abdullah Al Tanaiji said there was a good reason for this.

“We have been working with Dubai Police to make it as smooth as possible,” he said.

“Because it’s a built-up area we had to restrict the traffic entering the testing centre to one lane to stop any disruption to the rest of City Walk.”

He said the surge in visitors to the centre was due to most government ministries being based in Abu Dhabi, with Dubai-based employees keen to get back to work.

The mood was relaxed among motorists at City Walk, despite the long queues.

“It is what it is. My appointment was two hours ago and I haven’t been seen yet but I understand the importance of this so I can’t complain,” said Tobias Kagerah, 31, from Germany, who was planning to leave the country for a short business trip.

“It’s given me a chance to catch up with my audiobook if nothing else.”

Another motorist, who asked not to be named, said the long queues did not come as a surprise.

“I expected to be honest and there’s not a lot I can do but be patient,” said the Dubai resident, who said he works in a government department in Abu Dhabi.

“I need it if I want to get to work.”

Updated: July 4, 2020 04:43 PM


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