Coronavirus: on patrol with Abu Dhabi's door-to-door Covid-19 testing team

Police and medics have teamed up to ensure access to screening for all in the emirate

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Police and medics have joined forces in Abu Dhabi to offer free Covid-19 tests at the homes of residents to boost efforts to drive down infection rates in the emirate.

The police's special patrol unit, Al Mersad, has gone from door-to-door with health workers and volunteers at residential buildings in Khalidiyah, Al Najda, Al Zafaranah and parts of the Corniche for the past three weeks.

The aim of the campaign is to ensure all sections of society get access to screening, particularly those at most risk of suffering serious illness as a result of contracting the virus.

“We cover up to 26 buildings everyday between 6pm and midnight,” said Captain Dr Aisha Al Maamari, from the Abu Dhabi Police medical services department.

“The idea was to avoid taking families to tents in order to not compromise their safety and privacy.

“Especially for people with chronic diseases, pregnant women, children and special needs - it is much safer to test them at their own homes.”

Police are specifically targeting buildings that are inhabited by non-Emirati families who may not be able to afford to get tested, and those whose employers may not have required them to do so.

“Basically we reach the families who were not able to reach the testing centres,” said the officer.

“The tests are optional, but we convince residents that this project will help us reach zero cases if they co-operate.

“Because then we will be able to pinpoint the high-spread areas and quarantine the infected.”

The National joined the task force during a visit to a residential building in the Al Zafaranah district.

When the team reaches a building, they set up computers and card readers in the reception.

The door-to-door Covid testing unit in Abu Dhabi

The door-to-door Covid testing unit in Abu Dhabi

The volunteers, accompanied by members of the police, then knock on people’s doors to explain the procedure.

They take their Emirates ID cards back to the reception to scan them and register all the relevant details. After that the team goes back up with a medic to take the swab.

“This is Dr Aisha from Abu Dhabi Police, we are managing diagnosis for Covid-19,” said the police captain to a resident after knocking on his door.

The 42-year-old Lebanese man gladly accepted to be tested.

“At the end of the day they are looking for our benefit and health,” said Ziad Marchi, a service manager for BMW.

This was his second time to get tested, he said.

“I tested the first time in April, because I was in contact with someone who tested positive.”

But luckily for Mr Marchi, he tested negative.

He said he appreciated the gesture and believed it would be to the benefit of everybody to get tested.

“I don’t believe in any other place in the world this is happening, police knocking on your door and asking if you would like to be tested," he said.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, June 22, 2020.   
STORY BRIEF: Police patrols knocking on doors offering free Covid-19 tests to residents in buildings in AD downtown, Al Bakra Street area.
--  Building resident Ziad Marchi-42 from Lebanon gets a swab tested right outside his apartment.
Victor Besa  / The National
Section:  NA
Reporter:  Haneen Dajani
Resident Ziad Marchi receives his Covid-19 test outside his apartment. Victor Besa/The National

“This shows that the government cares about people’s health and so I don’t think anyone will reject.”

The building supervisor, Mohammed Abdulwahab, said a health official approached him at noon to inform him of the test drive that would take place later that day.

“He asked me to inform all residents that they will arrive at 7pm to take swabs,” said the 56-year-old Egyptian.

“I went from door to door to inform all 15 flats so they can be prepared and not taken by surprise.”

He said all of the residents were happy to get tested, except for one who said he had just tested recently.

“My turn will come once the residents are done; it will be my first time I did not get the chance to do it before.”

The residents were informed that they will be receiving their results once ready.

Some cases are transferred to one of the Covid-19 treatment facilities before the test results come out, said Captain Dr Al Maamari, if the person displays symptoms such as a high fever.

On Tuesday, the Abu Dhabi government revealed an extensive six-week screening strategy in Mussaffah had “fully contained” the spread of Covid-19 after tests on 570,000 residents.

In the door-to-door operation, 2,730 buildings were checked and 260 housing complexes disinfected.