Coronavirus: UAE malls install thermal cameras to help curb virus spread

Shoppers will pass through subtle screenings at shopping centres and even bars and restaurants

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Malls and supermarkets across the UAE are using airport-style thermal scanners to tackle the spread of coronavirus.

Sites also stepped up deep-cleaning protocols to ensure public places can remain open and free of the virus.

Managers said those with a high temperature readings would be turned away or sent to nearby medical teams for further testing.

Some venues have introduced 24-hour cleaning and are using teams to disinfect shopping trolleys, lift buttons and food-court tables.

Retailers and hotels swung into action yesterday after meetings between business leaders and government officials.

Ahmed Al Khaja, chief executive of Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment, said the industry reviewed the “current global health situation and reinforced the importance of each of us playing a responsible role” to ensure the health and safety of residents.

“The quick and preventive actions taken so far by our partners must be appreciated,” Mr Al Khaja said.

In other developments yesterday:

- German chancellor Angela Merkel said up to 70 per cent of Germans could be infected, and that the government was focused on containment because the “population has no immunity and no therapy exists”

- British health minister Nadine Dorries became the most senior government figure to be infected. Days before showing symptoms she held a surgery tour for 50 constituents and addressed the House of Commons

- The Bank of England cut interest rates from 0.75 per cent to 0.25 per cent to allow consumers to borrow at the lowest level in history. Italy’s government announced a €25 billion package as it prepared for the economic impact of the country’s shutdown

- In the UAE, one of the country’s biggest public relations agencies, Edelman, closed its Dubai and Abu Dhabi offices after a staff member returned from Europe with the virus

- Saudi Aramco and Adnoc said they would increase oil supply after the collapse of the Opec+ alliance, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia

- Qatar confirmed that cases had jumped from 24 to 262 but said the new infections had emerged in quarantine rather than among the public

- The Kuwait government grounded all commercial flights beginning on Thursday and enacted a two-week public holiday that will close all workplaces until March 26. The country will also ban people from public gathering spots such as restaurants and cafes, including those in malls

On Wednesday, Dubai developer Nakheel said escalator railings, shopping trolleys and lift buttons at its properties would be cleaned every 30 minutes, and tables and chairs in food courts scrubbed after every use.

A spokeswoman said there was a “24-hour surface disinfectant programme” in properties that include Ibn Battuta Mall, Dragon Mart, Nakheel Mall, The Pointe, Club Vista Mare and community shopping centres.

In Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, more than 20 thermal cameras were placed in eight malls managed by the same company.

“We have fixed the scanners in some of the main entry and exit points in all eight properties,” said Wajeb Al Khoury, director of Line Investments and Property, part of supermarket chain Lulu Group.

“At Khalidiyah Mall, one camera has been fixed at the main entrance of the building and one at the Lulu Hypermarket entrance.

“This is where the bulk of customer traffic is concentrated.”

He said thermal scanners had been fitted in Al Raha, Al Wahda, Mushrif, Madinat Zayed, and Mazyad malls in Abu Dhabi, as well as at Barari Outlet Mall and Al Foah Mall in Al Ain.

“The number of cameras placed onsite varies depending on the size of the property,” Mr Al Khoury said.

“Some have two, some three, and some up to five. They are all linked to the CCTV control room in each mall.”

He said that if staff detected a high temperature reading, the customer would be led to a quarantine room set aside in each shopping centre.

A medical team from a nearby clinic would then be contacted to take the customer for further testing, off site if needed.

“Extra staff are being used to clean tables and chairs, as well as escalator touch points and hand railings,” Mr Al Khoury said.

Lulu Hypermarket trolleys are also being “disinfected regularly”, as are check-out counters across all stores.

At Dalma Mall, three thermal cameras were fixed at the main entrances.

Dubai steps up cleaning process on public transport amid coronavirus outbreak

Dubai steps up cleaning process on public transport amid coronavirus outbreak

“The full roll-out is not yet complete so we can expect more cameras to be fitted over the coming days,” said general manager Bhupinder Singh, as technicians watched glowing thermal monitors of passing shoppers.

“We have also added more than 150 hand sanitiser units near key touch points throughout the building, including outside elevators, at entry and exit points and at trolley pick-up and drop-off areas."

If a shopper showed up with a high temperature reading, Mr Singh said trained staff would take them to one side and “liaise with contacts in the medical sector”.

It would be at the “discretion of medical staff” if further testing was required.

The mall has intensified its cleaning schedule and increased the turnaround time for replacing air filters in the ceilings, Mr Singh said.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, March 10, 2020. 
Lulu Hypermarket going plastic bag free and cleanliness-conscious to combat the Covid-19 outbreak.   Thermal screening devices at the Khalidiya mall.
Victor Besa / The National
Section:  NA
Reporter:  Haneen Dajani
Newly installed thermal scanners at Lulu Hypermarket. Victor Besa / The National

Yesterday, customers at the popular JLT branch of McGettigan’s in Dubai were also being checked to ensure their temperatures were not abnormally high before being allowed in.

Door staff were using hand-held scanners to determine if guests showed any signs of infection.