Costly rapid PCR tests on offer amid demand and delayed results

Many rapid testing services now charge up to Dh500 - and one even costs Dh1,800

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Related: PCR test wait-times 'to shorten soon' as UAE laboratories increase capacity

Private healthcare centres are capitalising on heavy demand for PCR tests by charging up to Dh1,800 for rapid results, more than seven times the average cost of a usual home visit.

The most expensive package available in the UAE − an "elite" PCR test for Dh1,800 with results in six hours − is offered by Rizek.

The company said it is facing unprecedented demand because of the festive season and international requirements for tests before travel.

Rizek said its standard test was still available for Dh155 but the time it took to get that result had increased.

Government-run centres cap the cost of PCR tests at Dh50 - but most have experienced long queues and enormous demand since the year started.

“It is for an urgent situation. The elite test is Dh1800 and can be done according to your availability and requirements. A standard test for Dh155 would usually take 24 hours
Rizek representative

“This elite service has only recently been added to the app,” a Rizek representative said.

“It is for urgent situations. A standard test for Dh155 would usually take 24 hours and a Dh290 express test is done in 12 hours.

“The elite test is Dh1,800 and can be done according to your availability and requirements.

“We cannot provide the other services due to overload, so we are only offering standard and elite tests at the moment.”

Some cleaning companies have expanded services to take advantage of demand for rapid results, with companies like Just Mop, now called Just Life, also offering home PCR tests. They act as middlemen and take bookings for certified hospital groups, which send nurses to the client's home.

On Wednesday, the Medilife healthcare group was offering 'super express' PCR tests for Dh550, with results returned within five hours and an express PCR test for Dh400 in nine hours, although neither could be booked due to high demand.

Meanwhile, advertised six hour rapid tests for Dh850.

Another firm, Aqua Medical Centre in Al Qusais, offered its VIP services as DHA-approved on its website. The centre, near Dubai airport, offered an express PCR test for Dh499, with results in 6-7 hours.

Price cap

In August, the Ministry of Health and Prevention capped the cost of PCR tests at Dh50 − but the rule did not take effect in Dubai, which has its own crisis and emergency authority.

The rise of Omicron around the world has since placed huge strain on testing and analysis centres.

Before the ruling on August 31, clinics in Abu Dhabi could charge up to Dh65 for a test, while those in Dubai were allowed to charge Dh150.

Most private clinics in Dubai offer a basic PCR test for Dh150, although it is taking up to 48 hours for results.

Two-hour queues have been reported at some drive-through testing centres in Dubai, with results taking several days to return in some cases as laboratories face high demand for sample analysis.

While government walk-in PCR testing centres are charging lower rates, fees for many private providers are considerably more.

The fees that healthcare centres are allowed to charge for PCR tests vary.

In Dubai, prices are capped at Dh150 for in-clinic RT-PCR tests and Dh250 for home collection, while the maximum cost for tests in Abu Dhabi is Dh50.

The fees charged to patients also depend on the kind of test they require.

VPS Healthcare is one centre offering rapid PCR tests in Abu Dhabi for Dh350 at Burjeel Medical City, with results in less than three hours.

From December 26, Abu Dhabi government employees have been required to take weekly PCR tests to screen for Covid-19.

Federal government and semi-government department employees have been offered free PCR tests in the capital. Other private businesses have also asked employees to be tested before returning to the workplace.

Returning teachers and school pupils in the UAE have since been required to provide negative tests at some schools, applying further pressure to testing centres.

Updated: January 06, 2022, 8:12 AM