Abu Dhabi's new Covid-19 green pass system went live at public venues across the capital on Tuesday morning.
The safety measures require people to show their testing and vaccination status on Al Hosn, the UAE's test and tracing app, to enter parks, beaches, malls, hotels and large supermarkets.
The app is also needed to access gyms, swimming pools, entertainment centres, restaurants and cafes.
More than five thousand shoppers made their way into Khalidiya Mall from 8am to 12.45pm on Tuesday, in an encouraging sign of public engagement in the new scheme.
“Ninety-seven per cent of the people who showed up managed to enter,” said Mayank Pal, manager of the mall.
Assistance was given to some visitors trying to access the mall.
“We had a couple of customers, between 60 and 70, who did not have a smart phone, so we helped them by installing Al Hosn on their phone,” he said.
The mall recruited seven extra security guards, in addition to their existing fleet of 33, to ensure they had enough staff to manage the green pass process.
“And we selected the guards who will be positioned at the entry points carefully; we selected a category of people who speak Arabic, English and Hindi," he said.
“They also underwent training for five days on how to be polite and gentle with people who could not present the green pass.”
Staff were also trained to help customers to download Al Hosn if they did not have it and to explain the green pass protocols.
The 5,055 who entered the mall on Tuesday were even a larger number than the 4,200 that entered the mall the same time on Monday, said Mr Pal.
Hundreds of gym-goers safely accessed Vogue Fitness branches across the emirate on Tuesday.
“We had to turn around a few who did not have their green pass across different branches,” said Patrick Hegarty, co-founder of the gym chain.
“We explained the situation to them and they were very understanding.”
At the Yas Marina branch, an instructor asked members to show their app one by one.
Keith Odonell, 25, was the first in line.
“I already had the green status from a test I did in the weekend for going to Dubai,” said the PE teacher from Ireland.
“I already get tested frequently for going to Dubai every few weeks, so the green pass won’t make much of a difference for me.”
Green pass 'will keep us safe'
Alyan Al Hajeri, also a regular gym-goer, said he was happy with the new regulations.
“This is better to ensure that everyone is safe; many people were refusing to get the vaccine because they are either too confident of their immunity or just out of negligence,” said the 39-year-old Emirati petroleum engineer.
“But they don’t understand that strong built and fitness won’t necessarily prevent them from catching the virus or transferring it to someone else.”
He said he was happy that everyone now needs to get tested frequently.
“I have elderly parents and a big family, as you know we live in an extended families’ society so it is important to keep everyone safe,” said the father of five.
Stine Hoseth said she took a test on Saturday to enter the gym on Tuesday.
“I only did two tests since Covid-19 started, and that was the third,” said the cross-fit coach, 46, from Norway.
Her first test was done after travelling and the second was for a cross-fit competition in April.
“I just did not need to get tested for anything else,” she said.
“I don’t mind getting tested now every month to sustain the green pass if I have to.”
Ms Hoseth said she is fully vaccinated.
A negative PCR result is required to obtain a green pass.
But its duration will be dependent on whether the person has been vaccinated, and for how long.
Anyone who received their second vaccine dose at least 28 days earlier will maintain green status for 30 days after a negative PCR test.
Those who are not vaccinated will keep the green status for three days after a negative Covid-19 test.
What do I do if Al Hosn doesn't work?
Some users have said they cannot get the app to work. One of the early issues was that hospitals and clinics had not correctly uploaded patients' data to the app. This appears to have been resolved and most people receive green status after getting their second vaccine shot. You should also receive the 'E' status 28 days after the second shot.
In April, Weqaya, Abu Dhabi's health portal, said it was "facing some technical issues with Al Hosn app and our team is working on fixing them, we understand this might be inconvenient".
The app has since been updated several times.
If, for example, your first dose shows on Al Hosn but the second doesn't, Weqaya advises people to delete it and download it again.
I received the vaccine abroad. Can I upload my status to Al Hosn?
Not yet. The authorities are expected to update the app soon, but as a tourist or new arrival to the country you cannot scan or upload your vaccine certificate onto the app.
According to the Department of Health Abu Dhabi website, "recipients of a vaccine outside the country" can apply for an exemption. The exemption will show on your Al Hosn app.
For further information, people can call Istijaba on 800 1717.
Speaking last month, Dr Farida Al Hosani, a government health spokeswoman, said people seeking an exemption in Abu Dhabi should arrange an appointment at a Seha or Mubadala Health vaccine clinic.
Once there, they will be evaluated and a GP or medic will decide whether the individual is exempt.
The person will be given an official report to use until the exemption is reflected on the app.
Useful contact details:
Al Hosn – 800 HOSN (4676) or firstname.lastname@example.org
Ministry of Health and Prevention – 800 111 11 or email@example.com
Weqaya – firstname.lastname@example.org (for Al Hosn app) or 056 3346740 (WhatsApp)