UAE business owners encourage staff to get vaccinated as regular PCR testing is introduced for some employees

From next Sunday, unvaccinated staff working in select industries must take fortnightly PCR tests

Business owners in the UAE believe a move to introduce mandatory Covid-19 tests for some workers will prompt more companies to encourage their staff to be vaccinated.

As of March 28, employees working in hotels, restaurants, transportation, laundries and beauty salons and hairdressers - who are not vaccinated against Covid-19 - must take a PCR test every 14 days.

In Abu Dhabi, testing is free for those working in vital sectors and service industries.

Workers who have received both doses of a vaccine are exempt from the requirement.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation said the new measures were brought in to limit the spread of the virus and keep work environments safe.

We have 17 staff at the restaurant and we are fortunate because there are some health centres in Sharjah that offer the PCR test for free

At Kensington Barbers in Dubai Marina, Tunisian owner Issam Lahmer said the announcement had spurred him on to speed up the vaccination process for his staff.

“I have six employees including three barbers, a receptionist, a cleaner and a manicurist,” he said.

“With this new rule I will now have to pay for them to get tested every two weeks so for me, it is better that I get them to go for a vaccination.

“So far, two of my staff have received the first dose of vaccination so I will now look to book an appointment for the other four.”

Mr Lahmer took over the business six months ago and said trade had been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Though the new, fortnightly PCR screenings would require owners in some Emirates to use expenses to pay for the tests, he said it is a good way "to encourage more people to get vaccinated so they don’t have to take time out of their day to get swabbed".

Lourds Adalia-Evertse, owner of Spice Grill in Sharjah, is in favour of regular testing and vaccination.

“We have 17 staff at the restaurant and we are fortunate because there are some health centres in Sharjah that offer the PCR test for free," she said.

“Because of that, all we have to do is arrange and pay for transportation of our employees to and from the testing site.”

She is keen for the public to continue to support the UAE's inoculation drive to help society return to normality.

"The sooner people get vaccinated and are further protected from the virus, the sooner things can get back to business as usual," she told The National.

With a small employee base, Ms Adalia-Evertse said the “majority of her staff” had already received the first dose of the vaccine.

Though it is voluntary to get the jab, she said she did encourage them to book in for their inoculation and all were willing to do so.

“We are lucky that testing is free in some places in Sharjah because to pay for tests for all staff, every two weeks, could be a financial burden for some businesses,” she said.

“Despite that, I think it is a necessary move to safeguard the population.

“For my staff that need to be tested, I have told them they can take some time out of the working day to get it done.”

At Katis restaurant in Sharjah, all nine staff working for the small eatery have received their first dose of the vaccine.

“I think regular PCR testing is a good call but thankfully it won’t affect our staff too much as we have all had the first dose of the vaccine,” said the restaurant's manager, who asked not to be named.

“Our second dose is in early April, so we will only need to go for a PCR test one time before being exempt from the new rule.

“For larger companies, it might be costly to do regular testing so I think you will find more staff opting to get the vaccine instead.”

On Sunday, the UAE government expanded its efforts to inoculate all residents against Covid-19 by urging people still waiting for the vaccine to book appointments immediately.

The Ministry of Health opened additional appointment slots for all residents over the age of 16 across the Emirates.