Frontline staff at an instant Covid-19 testing centre on the border between Dubai and Abu Dhabi are screening at least 6,000 people a day after an expansion helped cope with demand.
The Ghantoot site opened three weeks ago and was met with large crowds of commuters lining up to take the test. Tailbacks of vehicles stretched for more than 20 kilometres, forcing officials to implement an an online booking system.
Almost a month on, an expansion to improve capacity at the testing site now allows nearly 6,000 people to be tested every day with up to10,000 tested per day over Eid Al Adha.
“We have been testing about 5,000 to 6,000 people a day but during Eid, that number went up closer to 10,000. It was a crazy time,” said
Dr Iqra Rafiq, a medic for Tamouh Healthcare that operates the centre.
The test costs Dh50 and is available at the Last Exit on the Sheikh Zayed Road before the Ghantoot checkpoint.
The results of the Diffractive Phase Interferometry test, or DPI, which detects viral presence in the blood, including Covid-19, are received in minutes via a text message.
“The test is very quick [compared with] the PCR test that can take time to get a result,” said Dr Rafiq.
“It is a sensitive test, so it can pick up minor infections, not just coronavirus.
“The test could pick up a common cold, for example, but it has a 90 per cent sensitivity to picking up Covid-19."
The facility was set up to allow commuters who require a negative Covid-19 test to enter Abu Dhabi.
Those with negative results can continue their journey to Abu Dhabi.
But people with a positive result must take a second PCR nasal swab test to rule out Covid-19.
The DPI test is not valid for travel outside UAE
Although the test is convenient for those travelling to Abu Dhabi from Dubai, it is not a recognised test for travel outside of the country.
Airline passengers must still take the more commonly used PCR (polymerase chain reaction) nasal swab and produce a negative result to be allowed on to flights out of the UAE.
“People who are negative can move across the border very quickly so it has been very beneficial to those working in Abu Dhabi,” said Dr Rafiq.
“If anyone has symptoms they should go to the nearest hospital rather than come here to be tested as it is not a coronavirus treatment facility.”
Inside the testing tent
On entering a vast screening tent the size of two football fields, visitors can join a queue in one of 12 lines to be processed after passing the now standard thermal imaging camera.
A temperature higher than 37°C could be an early symptom of Covid-19.
Administrators quickly attend to each visitor in the queue to process their Emirates ID and take a card payment. Passports and cash are not accepted.
After a short wait, visitors are then directed to one of 53 screening tables where a blood sample is taken via a finger prick.
That sample is placed inside a glass slide and inserted into a DPI machine where lasers search for signs of the virus.
A text message is then sent to notify the visitor if they can proceed with their journey or need to visit a second testing centre to complete a nasal swab to determine the presence of Covid-19.
Laser tests are only available to those over 10 and cannot be done on consecutive days.
“If you have booked an appointment online, it is a simple process,” said Salem Al Mansoori, a Tamouh Healthcare supervisor who processes new arrivals at the centre.
“We recommend everyone gets an appointment in advance as there is a lot of demand.”