Coronavirus: UAE boosts testing capacity as thousands visit drive-through centres
Emirates open 14 screening centres to identify undiagnosed cases
Thousands of people were tested for the coronavirus on Sunday as screening clinics opened across the country.
Drive-through centres were built by Seha, the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, with Ambulatory Healthcare Services over 10 days.
The centres will help to identify undiagnosed cases and reduce the risk of new infections, with each capable of testing up to 500 or 600 people a day.
High-risk people with existing medical conditions, the elderly, pregnant women or those displaying symptoms of Covid-19, are tested free of charge.
Others who visit the centre must pay a Dh370 testing fee through the Seha app.
Results of the tests are delivered within 48 hours by text message.
Visitors with appointments arrived at 10am when the doors opened at the first drive-through clinic in Mina Rashid, Dubai.
Praveen Gatti, 41, and his daughter Chiarra, 3, were among the first visitors.
“None of us are showing any symptoms but our neighbour has tested positive, so we thought we should come and get swabbed,” said Mr Gatti, an Indian who works in manpower services and lives in Dubai’s Oud Metha.
Drivers at Mina Rashid placed their Emirates ID cards into a registration machine as nurses took a nasal swab and temperature reading.
“The results are sent to the preventive health department in each city, and they then take care of the process by either advising a period of isolation or hospital,” said Mohanna Hasan, a dentist with the Ambulatory Healthcare Services who works at Mina Rashid.
I understand I have to do this job for my country to make everyone safe
Asmahan Bin Thabit Al Nahah
“A mandate from the leadership is to test as many UAE nationals and residents as possible.
“The aim is to have zero Covid-19 patients in the country.”
In only 10 days, 300 employees and volunteers built 13 testing centres after an order by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.
The medical centres were quickly established after the success of the first one in Zayed Sports City.
“It will take time to test the whole country but we are all doing our best,” Mr Hasan said.
“We recommend everyone takes the test in order to feel safe and if you have any symptoms, you need to be tested so you can get the right treatment.”
Almost 630 qualified medical staff have been trained to operate at the drive-through clinics.
Asmahan Al Nahah, a school nurse in Al Ain, is a volunteer at the Mina Rashid centre.
“There was a shortage of nurses available to work in the clinic so I volunteered to help,” said Ms Al Nahah, who has children aged 3 and 1.
“I am excited to help so many people and it is an honour to help our country during this difficult time.”
Frontline workers are tested for Covid-19 every week. If they test positive, they must isolate themselves and receive treatment.
“I have been away for a month from my husband and children, staying in a separate accommodation while I am testing people in Al Ain,” Ms Al Nahah said.
“I really miss my children and husband. My mum and sister are helping to look after the kids while my husband is working from home.
“I understand I have to do this job for my country to make everyone safe.”
Abdullah Al Mahrouzi, 21, an Emirati who works for the armed forces, was among the first ones to be tested for Covid-19 at the Ras Al Khaimah centre.
“I don’t have symptoms but when I heard that the centre would be opening its doors on Sunday, I registered,” Mr Al Mahrouzi said.
“The test was slightly uncomfortable but not painful.”
Dr Mariam Al Janabi, a dentist at a Ras Al Khaimah government hospital, is another volunteer.
“When I learnt that the Abu Dhabi health authority was looking for volunteers, I immediately applied,” Dr Al Janabi said at a Ras Al Khaimah testing centre in Khuzam.
“We received training before joining the team in the field.
“My responsibility is to walk them through the testing process and answer any questions people may have.”
New centres have also opened in Ghayathi, Madinat Zayed, Al Bahia and Al Wathba in Abu Dhabi, and Al Hili and Asharej in Al Ain.
In Dubai, centres have also opened in Al Khawaneej, with other facilities in Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah.
On Sunday, Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad Al Sharqi, Crown Prince of Fujairah, inaugurated the Rumailah Square screening centre.
Sheikh Mohammed thanked the staff for opening the centre so quickly.
Mariam Al Hosani, 29, a teacher, visited Al Bahia drive-though centre in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
Ms Al Hosani, a teacher, was happy to pay the Dh370 test fee.
“I wanted to check to feel secure for my family,” she said. “Since March 1, I have not been in contact with anyone outside my home.”
Her husband goes to work but follows strict hygiene and precautionary measures.
Most clinics will operate between 10am and 6pm from Sunday to Thursday.
Appointments must be made on the Seha mobile app or by calling 800 1717.
Updated: April 13, 2020 10:25 AM