Coronavirus: Abu Dhabi laser testing facility turns away hundreds queuing for Dh50 screening

Officials said only families who booked in advance can now take the five-minute test

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Latest update: Online booking service launched for Abu Dhabi laser testing centre

Authorities will set up a second instant screening centre on the border into Abu Dhabi and have launched an online booking system to cater for massive crowds of commuters that have been lining up to take the Dh50 test this week.

The facility is expected to be built in time for the weekend to help reduce waiting times for motorists, who require a test to prove they do not have Covid-19 to enter the capital.

An online booking system to allow people to register testing appointments in advance has now been set up. The booking service is available here.

On Wednesday, medics closed the centre and police turned away drivers at the site near Ghantoot, on the Abu Dhabi-Dubai border, after huge queues formed.

The centre opened this week and was intended to allow drivers quick access to the capital by offering a Diffractive Phase Interferometry, or DPI, test that produces results within five minutes.

The test uses a laser technique to scan a blood sample for signs of surging red blood cells, which is an early sign the body is fighting off a virus.

The technique was developed by QuantLase Imaging Lab, which partially runs the site and is part of Abu Dhabi investment firm International Holdings Company (IHC).

Abdullah Al Rashdi, spokesperson of Tamouh Healthcare, which is affiliated with the IHC, said the second facility will be used to exclusively screen families driving to Abu Dhabi and the first will be dedicated to testing individuals. Each centre can accommodate up to 2,000 people a day and more facilities are being considered across the country.

The DPI test offered at the border is not as definitive as the PCR nasal swab – but the results take less than a minute, instead of hours or days with the PCR.

But hundreds of people descended on the field testing centre close to Sheikh Zayed Road in recent days.

On Tuesday night, a video showed hundreds of men packed into a tent waiting for tests, with staff forced to close doors. On Wednesday, vehicles queued on the E11 motorway to access the testing centre, with police turning away dozens of buses carrying workers and others.

The test is free for senior citizens and people with disabilities.

Peter Abraam, chief strategy and growth officer at IHC, did not have official figures but told The National that demand for the test has been high so far.

"You've see the crowds and there were lesson learnt," he said.

It is currently being used at the border but Mr Abraam expects testing facilities to soon be made available at airports and shopping malls.

“We are using it for mass screening and it is to ascertain whether individuals need to have a PCR test.

“The test is more than ninety per cent accurate but it is a one-off test to get you through the border.”

He said the DPI test would be able to tell people if they may have the virus and encourage them to confirm either way by taking a PCR test.

The current screening tent at Ghantoot will also be expanded, he said, adding that physical distancing is maintained at all times to limit the chances of cross infection.

“It is as quick as you walking in there, you wipe your finger with an alcohol swab then prick your finger and the blood is put on a slide that goes into a machine. The results then appear within seconds,” he said.

It works by taking a blood sample using a lancet needle, which is the same as the one used for people with diabetes.

The blood sample is tested using the DPI technology and the lasers detect if there is an abnormality in the cells specific to Covid-19.

The laser produces an image that indicates whether or not the person being tested should go on to get a nasal swab.

“It is not an antibody test. It is a mass screening coronavirus detection test,” said Mr Abraam.


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