Coronavirus: 10,000 labourers per day tested in Abu Dhabi's industrial district

Thousands formed in spaced out queues as medics scan for symptoms of Covid-19

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Between warehouses in the heart of Abu Dhabi’s industrial city, thousands of workers stood at safe distance from each other in a makeshift tent, waiting to be checked for Covid-19.

The men wore masks and sanitised their hands at stations also set out at safe intervals.

Two tents were set up in Mussaffah by Abu Dhabi Health Services Company – Seha – on Friday.

When The National visited one at midday on Sunday, more than 20,000 people with coronavirus symptoms had been screened and 5,000 more were expected to be checked by the end of the day.

Free screenings are open to all, but first they must wait their turn.

We have 10 employees in Abu Dhabi and 20 in Al Dhafra – three of them tested positive so we want the rest to get tested

They begin by going through triage, where health workers check their temperatures and oxygen saturation, noting medical history.

As they wait, the workers are given food, water and juice.

“This comes as part of the efforts against coronavirus but it is not only for that,” said Mohamed Hawas, who runs Seha's diagnostic and treatment division.

“The goal is to maintain the health of workers instead of just managing the sick; so we are also giving them vitamins, guidance and refer them for treatment for other issues they may have.”

Anyone found to have symptoms of the virus, has a pre-existing chronic illness or is aged 50 and above is taken to a clinic on site.

Their Emirates ID is screened, and the men are guided to one of six stations where a nasal swab is taken.

They lower their masks and grimace as a long cotton bud is inserted far into their nostril, and then it is over.

“The swab takes only one minute, but cases who require further evaluation are seen by the physician [on site], for further testing,” said senior Seha official Dr Noura Al Ghaithi.

Mussaffah testing centre screens thousands for Covid-19

Mussaffah testing centre screens thousands for Covid-19

Inside the clinic is an X-ray room and blood testing equipment.

“We do those tests for the elderly and people with severe symptoms or illnesses by the time the [coronavirus] results come out, so if they are positive we start with the treatment straight away,” she said.

“Before receiving treatment for Covid-19, every patient must undergo an X-ray, to check if they have lung infection – one of the complications of Covid-19, and [take] a blood test,” she said.

These tests will determine the type of medication, dose and duration that must be prescribed to the patient.

“The results [for the coronavirus test] take between one to three days. Priority is given to high risk groups,” said Dr Al Ghaithi.

The testing tents open from 7am to 5pm daily and receive about 10,000 people per day. Of these, more than a third (4,000) are screened for Covid-19. Those considered least at risk of having the virus are not tested.

Two centres have been set up in Mussaffah and another in Al Ain. They contribute to the 14 drive-through centres set-up across the Emirates.

"We will be introducing more [testing tents ] in Mussaffah and in industrial areas in Al Dhafra," said Mr Hawas.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 16 APRIL 2020. COVID-19 Testing station in Al Mussafah. Men wait in line for their pre-check ahead of being tested. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Haneen Dajani. Section: National.
Men wait in line for their pre-check ahead of being tested for Covid-19. Antonie Robertson / The National

The centres are disinfected daily, and medical staff, who wear personal protection equipment, are tested once a week.

Health authorities have focused testing on densely populated areas where an outbreak could spread very quickly. The strategy is to identify, isolate and treat cases as soon as possible to prevent its spread.

Zakir Hussain, a 36-year-old shopkeeper from India, had a swab taken on Sunday because he had a high fever.

He arrived at the centre at 6.30am, and checked out at 1pm. He must wait for the results in self-isolation.

“Now I will go to work to ask my manager for isolation leave.”

Itbar Gul, 30, also waited about six hours to be swabbed on Sunday.

“I arrived at 7am. I had to test because my colleague tested positive,” said the shopkeeper from Pakistan. ­­

Ali Mohammed, a project manager for a contracting company, visited the centre before sending his employees to be tested.

“We have 10 employees in Abu Dhabi and 20 in Al Dhafra – three of them tested positive so we want the rest to get tested,” he said.

“I will also get tested when there is less traffic.”